Federal Judge Approves Georgia County's Agreement Not to Enforce Challenged Sign Ordinance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ATLANTA, GA — Under an agreement reached today between the American Civil Liberties Union and DeKalb County officials, residents will be allowed to display signs and flags in their yards indefinitely without the threat of government sanction.
“People should now feel free to express themselves by posting signs or flying flags on their property without fear of reprisal from the County,” said Robert L. Tsai, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia.
At issue is the County’s 24-year-old sign ordinance, which restricts political signs and banners posted on private property. Officials today agreed to suspend enforcement of the ordinance while awaiting the outcome of a federal ACLU lawsuit challenging the policy on behalf of local residents.
The ACLU acted on behalf of DeKalb County resident Katherine Nash after a County code enforcement officer told her to remove a sign from her yard that read, “Greedy Developers Suck.” Filing the lawsuit with Ms. Nash were six other DeKalb residents, including state Rep. June Hegstrom and DeKalb Democratic Party Chairman Gerard Hegstrom.
In approving the agreement to suspend the ordinance, the Honorable Marvin H. Shoob of the Federal District Court in Atlanta, commended the County for “knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.”
In light of the county’s temporary suspension of its sign law, the ACLU has given officials 24 hours to decide whether to provide written notice to candidates in the upcoming elections that the restrictions are in abeyance.
If the County refuses to provide such notice, the ACLU has asked Judge Shoob to force them to do so. DeKalb commissioners are scheduled to vote tomorrow on whether to notify candidates in the primary election next week of the terms of the settlement.
Although residents may now place signs on their property, county officials plan to continue removing campaign signs posted in public rights of way.
The ACLU will continue to work with the County to redraft the ordinance to comply with the First Amendment. However, in the absence of a final settlement, Tsai said, the ACLU will ask the court to strike down the law.
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