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Archive for Monday, September 4, 2006

Judge strikes down sign ordinance

September 4, 2006

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— This Kansas City suburb will consider a new sign ordinance, the city attorney says, after a federal judge found the current one appeared to violate First Amendment rights.

Prairie Village resident David Quinly, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, had challenged the ordinance after the city cited him for his front-yard signs opposing the war in Iraq.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum issued an injunction blocking Prairie Village from enforcing its ordinance.

Quinly had been posting signs opposing the war for more than two years when the city cited him in September 2005 for two signs that were larger than city regulations allowed. Quinly pleaded no contest and was fined $300. He then appealed his conviction to Johnson County District Court, and the city agreed to dismiss the fine.

The city subsequently adopted a new ordinance designed to address deficiencies in its rules covering political signs.

The ordinance regulated "information signs" that involve free speech, a personal belief or a political party, candidate or issue. It said such signs can't be larger than 16 square feet, can't contain profane or indecent expressions, can't be displayed longer than 90 days and must be durable enough to withstand high winds.

Quinly and the ACLU then challenged the new regulations.

After Lungstrum determined that other signs - such as for-sale signs posted by real estate agents and signs posted at churches and libraries - were treated differently, the issue became whether the rules served a compelling public interest.

Prairie Village argued that larger signs create a traffic hazard and that the durability requirement was justified as a way to prevent cheap signs in disrepair from cluttering neighborhoods, but Lungstrum dismissed those arguments.

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