Brief Fact Summary. A City of Ladue ordinance prohibited homeowners from displaying any signs on property except for residence identification, for sale signs and signs warning of safety hazards. The Petitioner is the City of Ladue (Petitioner). The Respondent, Maragaret Gilleo (Respondent), put a sign on her front lawn that said “Say no to War in the Persian Gulf, Call Congress Now.” Later she put a similar sign in her window.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Ordinance that was blanket prohibition on signs was a content-based restriction that abridged homeowners’ First Amendment rights. It was not a time, place and manner restriction because there was no viable substitute for this unique medium of expression.
Where suppression of speech suggests an attempt to give one side of a debatable public question an advantage in expressing its views to the people, the First Amendment is plainly offended.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is the Petitioner City’s sign ordinance an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech?
Held. The ordinance is an unconstitutional abridgement of 1st Amendment constitutional rights. The regulation treated commercial speech more favorably than non-commercial speech and totally foreclosed a means of communication with a sweeping definition of signs. The ordinance was more than just a time, place and manner restriction, since the speech could not be switched to an alternate medium. Further, residents’ self-interest in property values will probably prevent the danger of unlimited proliferation of signs. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) felt a more temperate regulation could meet the Petitioner City’s concerns.
Discussion. A time, place and manner restriction is permissible. A local government can regulate the physical characteristics of signs that pose public problems by obstructing views, displace alternative use and distracting motorists. In Contrast, the petitioner’s ordinance cut off the entire medium expression through signs and therefore was not tied to the harm could validly seek to prevent under the police power.