Saturday, March 20, 2004

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Cafe Erotica Sign

In this case from last month (thanks to Matt Conigliario at AbstractAppeal), the 11th Circuit struck St. Johns County's sign ordiance for giving impermissible discretion to the County Administrator to determine what signs are political and therefore subject to restrictions.

The case was brought by those kindly folks who specialize in naked waitresses at truck stops - and who are nervy enough (surprise, surprise) to use their billboard space to make negative statements about the politicians who keep trying to put them out of business.

The County's sign ordinance created three clases of signs: billboards, site-signs and "special;" the latter included signs that had a political message and limited them to 32 square feet as well as requiring that the sponsor of the sign be identified. But the definition of billboard was very broad.

The court basically found that the County was impermissibly discriminating against political speech; it also created a situation where the County Adminstrator could classify some signs carrying political messages as billboards (allowing them to be bigger), or conversely, determine that some (undesireable) message was "non-commercial" and political and therefore could not be put on a billboard if the the billboard was over 32 square feet - or that was a violation of a valid billboard permit.

Yet another badly thought out attempt to limit political speech - and in this case - silence Cafe Erotica and We Dare to Bare, who were placing messages attacking the local commissioners on the billboard space they so copiously rent along I-4 and I-95 in that neck of the woods.

Here's the file:Cafe Erotica v St Johns County

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