October 29, 2014

PLF’s challenge to “For Sale” sign ban makes waves

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

PLF’s lawsuit challenging the City of Alexandria’s ban on “For Sale” signs in parked cars is creating a big response from the media and the City itself. As our readers recall, our client, Scott McLean received a parking ticket a few years ago for placing a “For Sale” sign in his car while it was parked on a residential street near his home. Now he would like to sell his truck, but he doesn’t want the City to fine him again. The Washington Post put it this way:

Rather than risking another citation, he called the Sacramento, Calif.-based Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian organization that can’t stand when the government seems to be encroaching on individual liberties.

“I can put a bumper sticker on my vehicle about my religious views and moral views,” said McLean, 35, and an attorney in his own right. “Those pocketbook issues are just as important. For me, free speech doesn’t have any qualifiers.”

Last week, McLean and the foundation filed a lawsuit against the Alexandria government, calling the city’s decades-old no-sale-sign statute an arbitrary ban on commercial speech that violates the First Amendment.

A DC-area affiliate of CBS news also picked up on the story, with new anchors commenting that the City’s law should go in the “Whhhaaattt? File,” because the ban is surprising and “crazy.”

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The City of Alexandria must be getting the message. Last night, it announced a moratorium on enforcing the law:

The City of Alexandria has suspended citations for parking violations associated with displaying a “for sale” sign on a vehicle parked on a public street. . . . While the [City’s] review [of the sign ordinance] is pending, the City has determined that it is in the best interest of the public to suspend enforcement of the ordinance. Accordingly, vehicles displaying “for sale” signs on public streets will not be ticketed until further notice.

While a suspension is a nice start, the City should admit that the sign ban is unconstitutional and repeal it. In the meantime, PLF plans to move forward with our lawsuit until we vindicate the First Amendment rights of Scott McLean (and the everyone who lives or visits Alexandria).

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