Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 27, 2015

Fed. District Court in IL Denies Motion to Dismiss Claim Challenging Sign Ordinance’s Content-Based Restrictions

In 2005, the Village of Downers Grove changed its rules on the display of commercial signs. Robert Peterson is the owner of Leibundguth Storage & Van Service, Inc., which has displayed several large signs identifying and advertising its business on the outside of its Downers Grove location for decades. Leibundguth says that these signs are an important source of business, but they did not conform to both the type and quantity restrictions of the amended sign ordinance. Peterson and Leibundguth seek a declaratory judgment that the ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 4 of the Illinois Constitution, and a permanent injunction against enforcing the ordinance.

As to the first claim, the Village asserted that Leibundguth lacked standing to generally challenge the entire sign ordinance Leibundguth could not call into question the constitutionality of the sign ordinance as a whole by attacking its problematic portions. However, the amended complaint did not seek to invalidate the entirety of the sign ordinance, only the unconstitutional “content-based restrictions” currently affecting Leibundguth. Next, the Village asserted that the rules in question were constitutionally proper “content neutral time, place, and manner” restrictions. Because there was a distinction between commercial and non-commercial signs, the court determined that the sign ordinance operated as a restriction based on content. Beyond conclusory statements, the Village failed to present its carefully-calculated reasons justifying the ordinance as a reasonable fit, and did not offer any evidence to shed light on the actual scope of the asserted problems it sought to remedy by the ordinance. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss was denied.

Peterson v Village of Downers Grove, 2015 WL 1929737 (ND Ill. 4/27/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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