Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 13, 2016

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Ordinances Limiting Motorized Mobile Billboards and Prohibiting Non-Motorized Mobile Billboards

Editor’s Note: This summary is reposted from the Illinois Municipal League Caselaw Summaries here: http://legal.iml.org/page.cfm?key=16762&parent=4196

This consolidated case challenged five ordinances among four municipalities – one (the “motorized mobile billboard ordinance”) limited the type of sign that could be affixed to motor vehicles parked or left standing on public streets, and the others (the “non-motorized mobile billboard ordinances”) prohibited non-motorized, mobile billboard advertising displays within city limits. The former only allowed for advertising signs that were painted directly upon or permanently affixed to the body of a vehicle and they could not extend beyond the length, width, or height of the vehicle. The latter ordinances prohibited “mobile billboard advertising displays” from parking on any public street.

The plaintiffs filed suit against the four municipalities claiming that the ordinances violated the First Amendment, an argument rejected by both the district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.   In considering whether the ordinances were content based, the courts found that although the ordinances used the term “advertising,” that word refers to the activity of displaying a message and not to any particular content that may be displayed.  The term “advertising” does refer to only commercial speech because all signs advertise some type of message regardless of whether the message is for commercial purposes. In addition, unlike the ordinances in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, No. 13-502 (U.S. June 18, 2015), the ordinances here did not single out a specific subject matter.  Thus, the ordinances were content neutral.

The courts also found that the ordinances were proper time, place, and manner restrictions. The ordinances were narrowly tailored because they were not substantially broader than necessary to achieve the cities’ stated interests in traffic control, public safety, and aesthetics. Moreover, the ordinances provided ample alternative avenues of communication because they only foreclosed one form of expression – mobile billboards.

Lone Star Security and Video Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, Nos. 14-55014, 14-55050 (9th Cir. July 7, 2016)


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