Right to Post Political Signs, Chesterfield County v. Morrissette 

C.L. Morrissette put two signs on his lawn, which say:  “Welcome to Chesterfield Where Government is Corrupt Taxes Are High and the Schools are Mobile”  and "Ed Barber, Renny Humphrey, Art Warren, Kelly Miller and Lane Ramsey [all members of the Board of Supervisors], in their Official Capacity, are Corrupt, Self-Serving Liars.  Challenge them to a Polygraph.”  He was cited for violation of Chesterfield County’s sign ordinance, which prohibits “[s]igns containing religious, educational or charitable messages or which advertise events for nonprofit organizations” that “exceed eight square feet in area and five feet in height.”  He was convicted in the General District Court and has appealed to Circuit Court. While municipalities are generally allowed to regulate the size of outdoor signs for aesthetic reasons, they may not do so in a content based manner.  The Chesterfield County ordinance is content-based because other kinds of signs are subject to less restrictive size regulations, or to no size regulations at all.  For example, temporary campaign signs and signs for Christmas tree vendors are permitted to be 32 square feet, while residential community identification signs may be up to 100 square feet.

 

On June 15, 2006, the Chesterfield County Circuit Court ruled Morrissette's signs were legal and did not violate the county's sign ordinance.  The signs did not fall in the "educational" category as the county argued and were therefore not subject to the stricter size restrictions.  The court, however, did not address the ACLU's greater concern, which is the constitutionality of the county's ordinance that imposes content-based restrictions on speech.

 


Court Documents:

Trial Brief- Chesterfield County Circuit Court (pdf)

Attorney(s)

Rebecca Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Charles A. Gavin, Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click, P.C.

Date filed

March 18, 2006

Court

Chesterfield County Circuit Court

Status

Closed

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