Town’s political yard sign restriction struck down

By The Associated Press
07.22.05

ESSEX, N.Y. — A federal court struck down an Adirondack town's ordinance about the display of political yard signs yesterday, saying the law was an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.

The ordinance adopted in 2003 allowed lawn signs to be posted only for 30 days before events, including elections. Violators faced a fine of up to $100.

The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of several residents. U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe issued a permanent order yesterday prohibiting the town along the shore of Lake Champlain from enforcing the ordinance.

"The judge decided the town ordinance was unconstitutional because it attempted to control political speech protected by the First Amendment," plaintiff Stuart Brody said. "This is a very big decision."

Essex officials said they would not appeal. The ordinance was part of a zoning law, and town supervisor Ronald Jackson said the goal was to prevent people from indefinitely keeping a large number of disposable signs in their yards.

"Anybody can put any temporary sign they want up on their premises now," Jackson said. "You win some, you lose some. This one we didn't win."