• Appeals Court Hears Important Billboard Case

    A federal appeals court heard oral arguments on January 30 on the constitutional (free speech) challenge to billboard law.

    Each side was allotted 15 minutes before a three-judge panel of the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH. The case (Thomas v. Schroer) eventually could be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

    The plaintiff, billboard builder William Thomas of Tennessee, argues that Tennessee’s billboard law violates First Amendment speech protections.  A federal judge in Memphis (Jon P. McCalla) concurred, ruling in Thomas’ favor in 2017.

    The State of Tennessee appealed, supported by the federal government.  The government argues that billboard law properly balances free speech and regulation, and that billboard law is not based on sign content.  Further, the government asserts that its longstanding interest in safety provides a solid rationale to regulate signs.

    This lawsuit has national implications because the framework of Tennessee’s billboard law is similar to other states as well as the federal Highway Beautification Act.

    On appeal, plaintiff Thomas is represented by the Institute for Free Speech, based in Alexandria, VA. Counsel for Thomas contend that the State of Tennessee has not proven that its billboard regulation is based on a compelling government interest that would justify limiting free speech.

    Insider will  continue to provide updates on this important case.  Be careful what you wish for here.  If Thomas prevails the existing system of regulation in Tennessee (including just compensation) could be thrown out and the door opened for something which is much worse.


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    One Comment

    1. Watch what you wish for, it may bite you in the end game. Thomas is trying to open a Pandora’s box, which will ultimately hurt his business as well as the industry as a whole. The HBA is fair and does not implicate the banning of content (Message, speech). Local municipalities are the causes of regulation of what content is allowable on off-premise signs. Many (regular people that get into power so they can dictate, based on their opinions rather than legislate the law as per our constitution) do not allow what they deem inappropriate. Mr. Thomas, though it may not be his mission, is pushing for something that could upset and ultimately severely hurt the outdoor advertising industry.

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