David Rubin is a resident of the Town of Manlius, New York. He wishes to exercise his First Amendment right to engage in political speech by posting yard signs in support of his favorite political candidates on his private property.
The Town of Manlius, however, prohibited individuals 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 were first required to obtain a permit.
While it is true that the government may limit political signs if it is in the public interest, such as when signs create safety concerns, any such regulations must be tailored to survive strict scrutiny in court. That is, they must take care not to overly infringe on First Amendment political expression rights by being carefully drafted to address only compelling state interests. In this case, no safety interest involving political yard signs merits infringing some of the most basic rights enshrined in our Constitution.
Dr. Rubin wishes to display political yard signs more than thirty days before and seven days after scheduled elections. Furthermore, Dr. Rubin does not believe that he should have to seek the Town’s permission before exercising his First Amendment rights.
On August 6, the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) legal team, representing Dr. Rubin, filed a lawsuit challenging the town’s unconstitutional restrictions on political yard signs. In early September, the Town of Manlius repealed the code and agreed to not enact further unconstitutional restrictions on yard signs. The case was voluntarily dismissed.
District Court for the Northern District of New York
- The Daily Orange: Former dean helps repeal ordinance preventing political free speech, by Charlie Mastoloni (October 31, 2013)
- Syracuse Post-Standard: Manlius resident drops federal lawsuit; vows scrutiny over new rules, by Elizabeth Doran (October 23, 2013)
- Syracuse Post-Standard: Manlius and Skaneateles take steps to unfetter political speech, by Editorial Board (October 8, 2013)
- Skaneateles Press: Village of Skaneateles introduces law to remove political sign restrictions, by Joe Genco (September 13, 2013)
- Syracuse Post-Standard: Manlius town board repeals contested political lawn sign rules, by Elizabeth Doran (September 11, 2013)
- Syracuse Post-Standard: Manlius schedules hearing as officials consider repealing or changing campaign lawn sign rules, by Elizabeth Doran (September 3, 2013)
- Syracuse Post-Standard (Letter to the Editor): Political lawn sign restrictions are too much of a burden, by Nancy Durkin (August 14, 2013)
- National Review Online: Permits for Political Speech?, by Katrina Trinko (August 13, 2013)
- Syracuse Post-Standard: Political signs are free speech, not a blight on suburban lawns, by Editorial Board (August 11, 2013)
- Reason: Professor Sues Town Over Yard Sign Free Speech, by Zenon Evans (August 9, 2013)
- 9WSYR: Professor challenges Town of Manlius codes for political signs (August 9, 2013)
- Daily Caller: Professor sues New York town over blatant political speech ban, by Eric Owens (August 8, 2013)
- Spectrum-TWC News: Lawsuit claims town code on political signs is unconstitutional, by Sarah Blazonis (August 7, 2013)
- Syracuse Post Standard: Campaign lawn sign restrictions in town of Manlius face new legal challenge, by Elizabeth Doran (August 6, 2013)