J. Allen Smith on Cincinnati v Discovery and Ladue v Gilleo

Insider has asked J. Allen Smith to write a series of articles on landmark out of home advertising legal cases.  Mr. Smith is a eminent domain and condemnation expert at Settlepoua Dallas law firm.  For more information on Mr Smith, please see Smith’s Settlepou bio.  In January Smith discussed Metromedia.  Today Smith discusses two cases which amplified Metromedia.

Teaching Metromedia by J Allen Smith

Continuing our legal series on the topic of Freedom of Speech and following up on our January 16th Metromedia article, today we consider two more U.S. Supreme Court cases: City of Cincinnati v. Discovery Network, Inc. and City of Ladue v. Gilleo.

Discovery Network evolved from Metromedia, or what the Supreme Court called “the teaching of Metromedia.” In this 1993 case, Cincinnati banned commercial handbill news racks, but not news rack for noncommercial newspapers.  The Court found that the City’s ban was an impermissible content-based regulation of speech in violation of the First Amendment because the burden on commercial speech was not a “reasonable fit” with the City’s goal of reducing the number of news racks.

One year later another Freedom of Speech case came before the Court. At issue in City of Ladue was an ordinance which prohibited homeowners from displaying any signs on their property except for residence identification, for sale signs, or signs warning of safety hazards. Defying the ordinance, Gilleo put up a sign in her yard stating, “Say No to War in the Persian Gulf, Call Congress Now.” Like Metromedia, the Court ruled that the ordinance was an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech because the restriction prohibited protected noncommercial speech. Justice O’Connor’s concurring opinion in City of Ladue v. Gilleo summed it up, stating “content-based speech restrictions are especially likely to be improper attempts to value some forms of speech over others.”

In the next article, we continue to lay the foundation in our legal series on Freedom of Speech as we build our way to the landmark case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.


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