The Borough of Woodland Park, New Jersey, is fining resident Matthew LaCorte for refusing to remove a Ron Paul 2012 sign from his front yard. According to a friend of LaCorte’s, the recent high school alumnus received notice in the mail about a month ago that he was violating Woodland Park law by “display[ing] election signs prior to election date.”
"He was scared,” said Brian Aitken, who counts LaCorte as a family friend. “It didn’t make any sense to him. He didn’t want to take the signs down. I told him to do what he thought was right, so he kept the signs up. He got another warning, and they said that they were going to issue a summons.”
Said summons was issued earlier this week. LaCorte, who is a member of Young Americans for Liberty and will be starting at Hofstra in the fall, will appear in court in August. He has two options: pay a fine of $100 to Woodland Park and remove the signs, or pay a fine of $100 and receive an additional fine every day that the signs are still up.
According to Aitken, “the law is one that his been repealed in a lot of places, but it exists in the city LaCorte’s in.”
Neighboring towns have repealed or declined to enforce similar laws (which forbid posting signs more than 30 days before an election, or eight days after one) after clashes with the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. LaCorte is refusing to take down the signs, and has petitioned the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU for legal assistance.
UPDATE: Aitken writes
Something I was just told: "CITY OF LADUE v. GILLEO in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a citizens right to display yard signs, no matter what city ordinances or homeowners association indentures say to the contrary."
Apparently the Supreme Court already determined this case. New Jersey just has illegal laws on its books.
Ignorance of the law is no defense... but only if you're a civilian.
More on the Ladue case from Cornell's website. This is clearly germaine to Woodland Park:
Ladue contends, however, that its ordinance is a mere regulation of the "time, place, or manner" of speech because residents remain free to convey their desired messages by other means, such as hand held signs, "letters, handbills, flyers, telephone calls, newspaper advertisements, bumper stickers, speeches, and neighborhood or community meetings." Brief for Petitioners 41. However, even regulations that do not foreclose an entire medium of expression, but merely shift the time, place, or manner of its use, must "leave open ample alternative channels for communication." Clark v. Community for Creative Non Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 (1984). In this case, we are not persuaded that adequate substitutes exist for the important medium of speech that Ladue has closed off.