Town Censors Residents’ Political Speech

Town of Manlius, NY Requires Residents to Ask Permission before Speaking

For Release: August 6, 2013   Contact: Joe Trotter   Phone: 210-352-0055 (Cell)

Alexandria, Va. – The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) today filed a lawsuit against Manlius, New York, on behalf of resident David Rubin challenging a town law that restricts First Amendment rights to political signs.

The Syracuse suburb prohibits residents from displaying political yard signs except during the thirty days before and seven days after an election. Even when citizens are allowed to display such signs, they must first obtain a permit.

“It is a shame that our local politicians in Manlius insist on spending scarce resources to defend a law that is clearly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has already made that quite clear in Ladue v. Gilleo,” said David Rubin, the plaintiff in the case and Dean Emeritus of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.

“This matter could have been settled quickly if the town officials had simply expunged the law from the books,” Rubin said. “They did not, so they gave us little choice but to proceed with this suit to protect the First Amendment rights of all citizens. This suit comes in the middle of great public suspicion about big government and its control of information. I am happy to be a party to it.”

“Several months ago, we contacted the Town about the constitutional problems with this ordinance, but we haven’t received a substantive response,” said CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson. “It’s easy to see why Dr. Rubin and other citizens are uncomfortable with so much government control over their political speech. And, of course, placing such limits on political debate cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment to our Constitution.”

CCP’s legal team represents Dr. Rubin, who wishes to speak out on political issues by displaying yard signs on his lawn.

Dr. Rubin does not want to limit this expression to the narrow window of time the Town allows and does not want to ask for a permit each time he wants to speak.

Town Supervisor Edmond Theobald, other members of the town board and the town’s code enforcement officers are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The lawsuit asks the Court to declare the law unconstitutional, permanently block enforcement of the law, and award attorney’s fees to the plaintiff.

CCP filed the case in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. The lawsuit can be found here.

A backgrounder on the case can be found here.

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About the Center for Competitive Politics

The Center for Competitive Politics is one of the nation’s premier centers of public interest litigation. It is the only public interest law firm with in-house litigation staff solely focused on the defense of First Amendment rights to free political speech, assembly and petition. CCP was co-counsel in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, which held that there can be no limits on contributions to independent expenditure committees. This case created what is now known as Super PACs. CCP’s amicus brief was cited in the majority opinion in the Citizens United case. CCP’s legal team represents two cases now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.