Case Scheduled to Be Heard Tomorrow in Chesterfield County Circuit Court

Chesterfield County, VA - The ACLU of Virginia announced today that it is aiding in the representation of a Chesterfield County man who was convicted in General District Court of violating the county’s sign ordinance after he placed two large signs in his front yard complaining about government officials.
Attorneys for C.L. Morrissette, Jr. will argue in Chesterfield Circuit Court tomorrow that by banning large signs with some kinds of messages but not other kinds of messages, Chesterfield’s ordinance discriminates based on the content of the sign, a violation of the free speech clause of the Constitution.
Morrissette’s signs, which measure four by eight feet (32 sq. ft.) each, read, “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, in their Official Capacity, are Corrupt, Self-Serving Liars. Challenge them to a Polygraph.”
Morrissette was convicted of violating the ordinance prohibiting signs “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.”
“No one is saying that Chesterfield can’t within reason regulate the size and placement of signs on private property,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “But it can’t discriminate against some messages by placing greater restrictions on them than other kinds of messages.”
Although municipalities may regulate the size of outdoor signs, they may not do so in a content-based manner. The Chesterfield County ordinance is content-based because many signs that are not religious, charitable or educational are subject to less restrictive size regulations. For example, farming signs and residential identification signs may be 12 square feet in size, while Christmas tree vending signs may be up to 32 square feet.
When: April 26, 2006, 1:00 p.m.
Where: Chesterfield County Circuit Court
Case: Chesterfield County v. C.L. Morrissette, Jr.
Attorneys: Charles A. Gavin, with Blackburn, Conte, Schilling & Click, P.C., and Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia
Trial brief available at www.acluva.org/docket/morrissette.html

Contacts: Kent Willis and Rebecca K. Glenberg, (office) 804/644-8022

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