Reed v. Town of Gilbert

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: June 18, 2015
  • Case #: 13-502
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, ALITO, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. ALITO, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which KENNEDY and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. KAGAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which GINSBURG and BREYER, JJ., joined
  • Full Text Opinion

A city sign ordinance that is on its face, is a content based restriction on free speech, it unconstitutional under strict scrutiny.

Petitioners, a community church and its pastor in Gilbert, Arizona, advertise the location and time of church services on signs that are placed around town on Saturdays and Sundays. Respondent, the Town of Gilbert has a sign ordinance, which places restrictions on the type of signs that can be displayed and varies depending on the purpose of the sign. After the Petitioners received citations from Respondent’s compliance manager, they filed a suit in district court alleging the ordinances were a violation of their First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court determined that the regulation was not content based. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the grounds the regulations under Hill v. Colorado were content neutral.

The Supreme Court found that Respondent’s sign ordinance was, on its face, a content based regulation and unconstitutional under a strict scrutiny analysis. Because the regulation was content based, no further analysis was required of the justifications of the regulation. The Court rejected the argument that the ordinance was content neutral because the restriction was not adopted in disagreement with a particular message or treated the signs differently based on the message’s viewpoint. The Court also rejected the argument that the ordinance was speaker based because any speaker who displayed a sign with Petitioner’s message would be violating the ordinance. Respondents’ interest in the aesthetics of the town and traffic safety were not compelling. REVERSED AND REMANDED

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