President's weekly report – February 8, 2015

February 06, 2015 | By ROB RIVETT

Free Speech – PLF case good to go!

In McLean v. City of Alexandria, 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 rights.  The City tried to get the case dismissed claiming it would not enforce the ordinance, but this week the trial judge ruled that wasn’t good enough and the case can proceed to trial.

Property Rights – Another missed opportunity to level the playing field.

In Potala Village Kirkland v. City of Kirkland, the City applied new zoning rules after the landowner had already applied for a shoreline development permit.  The problem is that if towns can change zoning laws in midstream, there will be no end to attempts to stop lawful projects midstream based on brand new laws.  As our blog post explains, this is not only unfair, but a violation of basic principles of vested rights and due process.  After a lower court upheld the new rules, that case was appealed to the Washington Supreme Court.  We filed an amicus brief urging the State Supreme Court to review the case, but the court denied review this week leaving landowners at the mercy of ever changing laws.

Environment – are these wetlands subject to federal control?

Pacific Legal Foundation filed a motion for summary judgment this week on behalf of Universal Welding, a small family-owned steel fabrication business based in North Pole, Alaska.  The suit challenges the Army Corps’ assertion of authority over 14 acres of “low-quality” wetlands that lie on Universal Welding’s property.  PLF argues the Corps has no jurisdiction over the wetlands under the agency’s own regulations.  The suit relies on a prior PLF victory from the same judicial district, Great Northwest, Inc. v. US Army Corps of Engineers.  That case held that Corps regulations exempt wetlands “adjacent” to other wetlands.  This is an almost identical case, but the Corps refuses to follow the court decision.