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City abandons penalties over 'For Sale' signs

A California city caught imposing a content restriction on free speech is now backing away from its ordinance.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed a lawsuit against San Juan Capistrano resident Michael Cefali, said the city will abolish an ordinance that forbids the display of ‘For Sale’ signs in cars parked on public streets.

“The city is making the right move in repealing this law, because the ordinance collides head-on with the Constitution,” said PLF Principal Attorney Larry Salzman.

“The First Amendment forbids government from banning signs or penalizing speech simply because it doesn’t like the content. The government can’t ban a ‘For Sale’ sign while allowing other messages, such as political signs. Some people may not like ‘For Sale’ signs in parked cars, but individuals have a right to communicate truthfully with the public – even when that communication is an advertisement.

“We hope this case will send a message to other cities that continue to enforce unconstitutional sign bans: Repeal them now or risk being served with an embarrassing and expensive lawsuit.”

“The Death of Free Speech: How Our Broken National Dialogue Has Killed the Truth and Divided America” examines how the news media has created arbitrary, biased and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena.

In a statement released by his lawyers, Cefali said he was pleased with the result.

“Whenever there is a victory for First Amendment freedoms, even if that victory is local and relatively low-profile, everyone’s rights become a little bit more secure. It took a little prod for the city to do the right thing, but after Pacific Legal Foundation helped me file the suit, the city council acted quickly and decisively to correct the problem.”

Last month WND reported Cefali, who wanted to sell a late-model Volkswagen, put a sign in the window and instead of a buyer, got a $50 fine for violating San Juan Capistrano’s ban on posting those words in a vehicle on a public street.

In response, he filed a federal lawsuit over the decision by the California city to censor speech.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that government cannot favor some messages over others based on their content,” said Salzman.

“Yet that’s what San Juan Capistrano is doing by censoring ‘for-sale’ signs in parked cars. If Michael had put a different sign in his car – a political sign, or an advertisement for a garage sale – that would be OK with the city. But because his sign advertised his car for sale, he is being punished.

“This kind of discriminatory restriction on speech collides with the Constitution, so we’re asking a court to strike it down,” he said.

The city at that time told Cefali that it routinely enforces the speech restriction. And while he paid the fine, he wasn’t happy and pursued the First Amendment case in court.

Cefali’s story:

 

“The Death of Free Speech: How Our Broken National Dialogue Has Killed the Truth and Divided America” examines how the news media has created arbitrary, biased and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena.