Friday, April 8, 2016

Central Radio v Norfolk: More on Signs

After completing the entry yesterday, I noticed that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals had addressed a noncommercial sign in the context of Reed v Town of Gilbert. In this case, a media company whose property was the subject of condemnation actions placed a 375 square feet sign on a 6 lane major highway, painted or attached to a building it owned. The sign protested the use of eminent domain procedures.

The city cited the company for an illegal sign. The company sued based on the holding in Reed v Town of Gilbert. The Norfolk sign ordinance excepted government and religious flags and banners but regulated flags or banners which referenced products or services. The court quickly concluded that this was content regulation forbidden by Reed, leaving only the question as to whether there was a compelling governmental interest. The court thought not, but was even clearer that the method chosen was not the least restrictive means:
With respect to the City's stated interest in preserving aesthetic appeal, for example, the flag of a private or secular organization was no greater an eyesore than the flag of a government or religion, and works of art that referenced a product or service did not necessarily detract from the City's physical appearance any more than other works of art. Yet, the sign code allowed the unlimited proliferation of governmental and religious flags, as well as works of art that met the City's dubious criterion, while sharply restricting the number and size of flags and art bearing other messages.
The court found in favor of Central Radio.

Central Radio Co. Inc. v City of Norfolk, 2016 WL 360775 (4th Cir. January 19, 2016)

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