Free Speech

Farmer Wins Free Speech Fight Over Political Signs

Offended officials tried to hit him under zoning law


Today in Kent County, Mich., Judge Steven Servaas was taken aback by a packed room leaping to its feet to applaud his dismissing a zoning-ordinance violation against a cattle farmer, Vern Verduin.

Verduin had famously been issued a citation, which he subsequently challenged, for displaying political messages on the side of two tractor trailers in his cattle pasture. The judge deemed the Gaines Township statute, which limits the size of political signs more strictly than commercial vehicles or billboards, unconstitutional, and found him not responsible for the ticket. The decision doesn't strike down the ordinance, but it does render it unlikely to be enforced, and, says Verduin's lawyer, Howard Van Den Heuvel, it "sends a message to all the townships: Make your ordinances as understandable and as open to free political speech as possible."