The Supreme Court has been much in the news recently, but hardly any of the media noticed or reported on one if its decisions that could have profound impacts on the signage industry. Specifically, in the case: Reed v. Town of Gilbert (Ariz.), the Court ruled that limiting temporary directional signage more than other types of temporary signage is a violation of the First Amendment.
The ruling was unanimous, but several of the Justices issued their own opinions regarding the meaning and extent of the ruling. As a result, it will probably take years for the legal community to sort out what the practical impact of this new ruling on the signage industry will be.
Limitations on Temporary Directional Signage vs Other Temporary Signage Disallowed
In particular, there are reasons to suppose that the Court has now issued an opinion – its first regarding signage in a couple of decades – that may open every existing signage regulation to lawsuits.
For example, the Court’s majority opinion in the case contains the following words from Justice Thomas: “the presence of certain signs may be essential, both for vehicles and pedestrians, to guide traffixxc or to identify hazards and ensure safety.” Separately, Justice Kagan alluded to the importance of signage being visible enough. These ideas leave open the door to lawsuits regarding possible deficiencies in directional signage.
At a minimum, we expect a new round of discussions at the local level regarding signage regulations, and whether or not existing regulations are Constitutional. At this early stage in the ruling’s impact, however, it’s difficult to tell whether these discussions will result in all signage regulations coming under scrutiny, or just some of them, and whether future regulations will become more restrictive, or more freewheeling and open.
If you have questions about this ruling, and how it may affect your signage plans, please feel free to contact us here and give us the opportunity to help you find the best way forward.