Los Angeles' Ban On "For Sale" Signs Is Suspended By Court

October 16, 2000 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – In a ringing endorsement of free speech, a federal court judge today made clear that he would halt the enforcement of Los Angeles Municipal Code, which prohibits placing “For Sale” signs in cars parked on Los Angeles city streets.

The ruling came in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California in June 2000 on behalf of Edward Burkow, a man who was fined by the City for placing a “For Sale” sign in his vehicle while it was parked on a city street.

“Every Southern Californian knows that automobiles are also vehicles of self-expression,” said Peter Eliasberg, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

“We use our cars as platforms to pitch our web-sites and herbal formulas, to argue about whales and fetuses, to joke with each other, to promote our acting careers, to advertise our tastes in music, fast food, politicians, deities, and sexual partners — in short, to engage in virtually every kind of conversation that can be imagined, from the inane to the profound,” said Eliasberg.

Judge A. Howard Matz rejected the city’s justifications of the law, which included traffic safety and aesthetic concerns.

“Under the code, commercial advertisements on cars could offer anything for sale except the car on which the sign is mounted,” wrote Judge Matz. “The court cannot fathom how a sign in a parked car is more dangerous than the same sign in a moving car. As to the indisputably important ‘aesthetic’ concerns. Defendants could minimize alleged harms with measures far short of outright prohibition.”

Since filing the lawsuit on June 1, 2000, the ACLU has received numerous calls from throughout the Los Angeles region from individuals who have been fined under Los Angeles Municipal Code § 80.75, for putting “For Sale” signs in their cars.

“This ruling is a red flag to all the cities in the region that enforce these ‘For Sale’ sign bans,” said Michael Small, Chief Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California. “If you don’t a want a losing battle on your hands, you’d better get these ordinances off the books.”

To view the ACLU’s complaint go tohttp://www.aclu-sc.org/litigation/cases.htm#burkow.

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