Crimes of the Signs


Last week Chris Pagan, a resident of Glendale, Ohio, succeeded in his seemingly quixotic quest to overturn a city ordinance that threatened him with fines and jail time for putting a "For Sale" sign in the window of a car parked on the street in front of his house. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled (PDF) that the sign ban, which does not apply to equally obtrusive noncommercial speech, violates the First Amendment. Overturning a ruling by a three-judge panel of the same court, the 6th Circuit concluded that the city had failed to show that its restrictions were narrowly drawn to directly and materially advance a legitimate regulatory interest. "The whim of government bureaucrats is not enough to justify censorship," said Jeff Rowes, an Institute for Justice attorney who represented Pagan. "This decision puts the burden back on government to justify restrictions on free speech, rather than making people like Chris prove they deserve constitutional protection for their rights."