August 15, 2016

Walton County couple speaks up for property owners' First Amendment rights

By Christina M. Martin Attorney
The Goodwins
The Goodwins

Last week, the Destin Log published my opinion article about Edward and Delanie Goodwin’s challenge to a Walton County, Florida, ordinance that bans signs on the Goodwins’ private property. PLF is representing the Goodwins in a First Amendment lawsuit. As I explain in the article, the Goodwins’ right to speak is intertwined with their property rights:

“Freedom is indivisible,” as Ronald Reagan once said. “There is no ‘s’ on the end of it. You can erode freedom, diminish it, but you cannot divide it and choose to keep ‘some freedoms’ while giving up others.”

The truth of those words is on display right now in Walton County, in the Florida Panhandle, where some beachfront homeowners have just sued the local government over a new law that stops them from maintaining signs on their own private beach property.

Read the entire article at the Destin Log.

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Goodwin v. Walton County, Florida

Under a new Florida law, signed on March 23, 2018, Walton County, Florida, can no longer try to steal free access to private property. County officials had enacted an ordinance banning signs on privately owned beaches, in hopes of allowing the public to trespass on private beaches without having to pay for the use. County officials threatened PLF clients Edward and Delanie Goodwin with large fines for keeping in place two “private property” signs and one small sign saying “If Walton County Wants My Property, It Must Pay For It — U.S. Constitution.” The Goodwins argued that the First Amendment protects their right to post signs on their property, and that the ban left the Goodwins with no reasonable alternative means to alert the beachgoing public to their property rights. The new state law now requires the county to go to court if they want to claim any right for the public to use private property.

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