Challenge to D.C. Sign-Posting Law Doesn’t Stick

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By Melissa Heelan Stanzione

Washington, D.C.'s sign-posting law, which doesn’t necessarily allow event signs to be posted as long as other signs, doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held Jan. 24 ( Act Now To Stop War And End Racism Coal. v. D.C., 2017 BL 19284, D.C. Cir., No. 12-7139, 1/24/17 ).

The law allows a posted sign to remain posted for up to 180 days. But a sign relating to an event must be removed within 30 days after the event, even if the 180-day period hasn’t expired.

The D.C. Circuit found that the regulation doesn’t violate the First Amendment because it regulates the amount of time a sign can be posted, not the message it sends.

The plaintiffs hung signs advertising rallies in Washington and planned to hang more signs in the future that “combine general messages of advocacy and references to specific events,” Judge Cornelia T.L. Pillard wrote for the court.

This is the second adverse ruling the court has dealt plaintiff A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in one week.

On Jan. 17, the court held that a regulation that effectively prevented the activist group from demonstrating in front of President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel on Inauguration Day didn’t violate its free speech rights, in A.N.S.W.E.R. Coal. v. Basham , 2017 BL 11870, D.C. Cir., No. 16-5047, 1/17/17 .

The group’s acronym stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. It filed the case with the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.

Judges Judith W. Rogers and David B. Sentelle joined the opinion.

Partnership for Civil Justice represented A.N.S.W.E.R. in both cases. The city Office of the Attorney General represented Washington. The U.S. Attorney's Office represented Basham.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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