Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 8, 2016

Fed. Dist. Court in MI Finds Language in Zoning Code Regulating Signs Reasonably Objective and Not a Prior Restraint on Speech

Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant Metamora Township alleging a violation of First and Fourteenth Amendment Free Speech rights, prior restraint, unlawful taking, violation of equal protection, and an unconstitutional tax surrounding the denial of several variances for Plaintiff’s non-conforming sign. The Court found that Defendant prevailed on all claims outside of the prior restraint claim and found that Section 1801(c) of the Township Ordinance was unconstitutional. Defendant filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Order and requested the Court to enter an Order granting summary judgment for Defendant on the issue of prior restraint. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Reconsideration requesting that the Court award Plaintiff nominal damages and strike the entire Township’s Ordinance as a result of its finding regarding prior restraint.

In its Motion for Reconsideration, Defendant claimed that the Court committed a palpable defect when it concluded that Section 1801(C) was not objective or specific. Defendant argued that the terms the Court found to be subjective, such as “special conditions,” were further clarified, qualified, and/or explained by additional language in the ordinance. The Court agreed, finding that the definition of these terms contained in the Ordinance provided objective and specific guidance for the decision makers that would allow for an appropriate amount of discretion. Moreover, since the Court found that the specific sign ordinance sections of the Zoning Ordinance were a part of the zoning ordinance itself rather than a separate and distinct policy, the Court held that these definitions could be applied to the Section 1801(C) regarding the granting of variances.

Accordingly, the Court concluded that Section 1801(C) was reasonably objective and specific and was not a prior restraint on speech.

Rzadkowolski v Metamora Township, 2016 WL 3230535 (ED MI 6/13/2016)


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