Friday, January 16, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court: Justices Seek to Balance Free Speech, Highway Clutter

The Supreme Court voiced displeasure Monday with municipal sign ordinances that favor some messages over others, but many justices worried that too much freedom of speech could exacerbate highway clutter.
In a case rife with religious and political overtones, the justices did not appear to like any of their options.
Good News Community Church Pastor Clyde Reed speaks 
about his free speech case after Supreme Court arguments 
Monday.(Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
At issue was a municipal code from Gilbert, Ariz., that restricts signs advertising upcoming events far more than political or ideological signs. Though political signs can be 32 square feet and remain up for five months, the town limits directional signs to 6 square feet and 13 hours.
That's bad news for Good News Community Church, which relies on the signs to attract a few dozen worshipers. "It is saying that political speech in this case is more valuable than an invitation to church," said David Cortman, the church's lawyer.
Justices Roberts, Kennedy, and Breyer
The justices clearly didn't approve of the town's rating system, which Justice Stephen Breyer termed "a little unreasonable."
The church's solution — that all non-commercial signs get equal treatment — didn't go over well, either. Chief Justice John Roberts said it would equate an upcoming election with directions to a children's soccer game. Justice Anthony Kennedy said a sign reading, "Happy Birthday, Uncle Fred" would be treated the same as one noting the birthplace of James Madison.
Justice Scalia
A compromise solution recommended by the Obama administration — intended to protect aesthetic restrictions for highway beautification — didn't fare much better. Justice Antonin Scalia said it would force courts to referee too many disputes.
Though the hour-long oral argument brought forth a range of humorous hypotheticals, the implications of the case are serious: What types of speech can be restricted without violating the First Amendment?
Read the rest of the stoey HERE.

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