February 3, 2015

Court denies motion to dismiss PLF's suit challenging sign ban

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

Yesterday, the United States Eastern District of Virginia denied the City of Alexandria’s motion to dismiss Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit in McLean v. City of Alexandria. The court’s opinion made clear that regardless of whether the City decides to later repeal the ordinance, our lawsuit will not become moot and our client will have his day in court.

In this case we challenge the constitutionality of a City ordinance that makes it illegal to advertise a vehicle for sale while it is parked on a city street. The ordinance does not ban other types of signs, but singles out one type of speech for punishment by fine. We filed a civil rights lawsuit in October on behalf of Scott McLean, arguing that the law violates his First Amendment right to speak truthfully about his desire to sell his truck.

Less than one week after PLF filed suit, the City issued a press release stating that it would suspend enforcement of the law, while it decides whether it should repeal or change the law. Pointing to the press release, the City later asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit as moot.

The court rejected the City’s motion yesterday, because the City has not repealed or amended the ordinance and thus may again start fining people for advertising their vehicles for sale. The court also said that even repeal of the ordinance would not moot the case. The decision recognizes that McLean seeks both protection from future enforcement of the ordinance, and a declaration that the City violated his rights by subjecting him to the unconstitutional ordinance. This is good news for our client and freedom lovers everywhere.

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