Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: 02-08-2013
  • Case #: 11-15588
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Callahan for the Court; Senior District Judge Singleton; Dissent by Circuit Judge Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

A city ordinance that categorizes noncommercial speech based on objective factors, like size and duration, serves a significant government interest and leaves open ample alternative channels of communication, is not a content based restriction and is a constitutional time, place and manner restriction.

Clyde Reed, pastor of Good News Community Church, appeals the district court’s holding on remand from the Ninth Circuit that the Town of Gilbert’s ordinance restricting “size, duration and location of temporary directional signs” does not favor some noncommercial speech over other forms of noncommercial speech. Good News was found in violation of the Gilbert ordinance for failing to remove their Sunday worship invitation signs within the statutorily limited time period allowed for Temporary Directional signs. Good News subsequently filed suit and appealed the case up to the Ninth Circuit where the Court held that the regulation was not content-based and was a reasonable time, place and manner restriction. The Court remanded the case to the district court to determine if the ordinance unconstitutionally discriminated between different forms of noncommercial speech. The district Court found that it did not and Reed appealed the remanded decision. Reed argued that the ordinance is content based because creates three different categories of noncommercial speech, Ideological, Political and Temporary Directional, and places different restrictions on each category. The Court disagreed, affirming the district court’s decision, holding that the ordinance is a time, place and manner restriction because each classification is based on objective factors that do not make distinctions based on the specific content of the sign. The Court found that the ordinance met the intermediate scrutiny test that requires it to be “narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.” The difference in time restrictions placed on the Temporary Directional signs and other categories are directly related to the size and duration, promotes Gilbert’s significant interest in safety and aesthetics and leaves open ample alternatives for Good News to promote its religious beliefs.

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