PEWAUKEE, Wis. The city violated a resident's First Amendment rights by restricting when he could put political signs in his yard, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert Jr. ruled aldermen should not have blocked Walter Fiedorowicz from erecting signs that urged a referendum on whether the City and Village of Pewaukee should merge in May 2002.
The city ordinance prohibits campaign signs except within 45 days of an election.
Clevert said the city or its insurance company would have to pay the legal bill of the American Civil Liberties Union, which took on Fiedorowicz's case. That could cost up to $40,000, said Madison attorney James Friedman, who was hired by the ACLU to file the lawsuit in August 2002.
Fiedorowicz said he was thrilled to have prevailed, but it was too late to dust off the 20 yard signs that sat in his garage while he watched the merger issue get shelved without a voter referendum.
"I was very disappointed in how local government could try to push me under the carpet and essentially violate my First Amendment rights," he said.
Mayor Jeff Nowak said the city was reviewing its sign ordinances, which date to 1978, and planned to make changes in the next two months.
He said it was too early to say whether the city would appeal. He said aldermen likely would meet next month with the city attorney and the lawyer hired by its insurance company to defend against the lawsuit.