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W. Va. town's political-sign law held unconstitutional

By The Associated Press
03.24.06

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — A city ordinance covering the posting of temporary political signs is unconstitutional because it places a "burden" on residents' rights to free speech, a federal judge has ruled.

Chief U.S. District Judge Irene M. Keeley's ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by Bridgeport resident Daniel McFadden over two ordinances governing the placement of temporary and political signs within city limits.

One ordinance required special permits before signs could be posted. Keeley dismissed that portion of McFadden's lawsuit, saying the issue was moot because the city has since modified the law to remove the requirement.

The second ordinance says temporary and political signs may only be posted 30 days before an event or election. The signs must be removed within 48 hours after the event or election.

The restriction on political signs is an "impermissible content-based regulation of speech in violation of the First Amendment," according to the ruling, which orders the city not to enforce the ordinance.

"That burden is content-based because it applies to those signs based on what they say," Keeley wrote. "Moveover, because Bridgeport's interests in aesthetics and traffic safety are not compelling, and temporal restrictions are not the least restrictive alternatives available to achieve those interests (the ordinance) does not survive strict scrutiny."

McFadden sued the city in October 2004 challenging the restrictions. The city never took any action to make McFadden remove two hand-painted political signs supporting Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. The signs were erected in McFadden's yard in September 2004, the ruling noted.

Keeley's ruling on March 20 delayed a decision on McFadden's request that he be granted costs and legal fees for bringing the action.


Related

Political yard signs OK'd in 2 Detroit suburbs

Federal judge issues temporary injunction barring enforcement of Troy's sign law; meanwhile, Grosse Pointe Woods revokes part of its ordinance. 10.20.04

Political yard signs

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