• Billboard Ban and Free Speech Collide in Alaska

    Alaska’s Outdoor Advertising Law, was passed by citizen initiative in the 1990s. That law is very broad, and prohibits the public from: (1) placing signage within a right-of-way, and (2) placing signage on private property within 660 feet of the right-of-way if the sign is viewable from the roadway. Because it is widely perceived that Alaskans approved this bill to prevent billboards in the state, many refer to it as the “billboard law.

    During this recent political season the Alaska Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, Dunleavy For Alaska, and a property owner Eric Siebels sued the State of Alaska because of a number of political signs which were taken down from private property near a highway right of way.   The Plaintiffs asserted in the lawsuit that the Department of Transportation’s confiscation of political signs within a highway right-of-way and issuance of cease and desist letters to property owners who had put up signs on their private property adjacent to a highway right-of-way violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of laws that infringe on freedom of speech.

    In September, Judge Herman Walker issued a temporary restraining order and ruling that the portion of the Outdoor Advertising Law that prohibits signage on private property next to a right-of-way is unenforceable.  Judge Walker noted that the State had agreed in its briefing that that portion of the law as applied to political signs violated the First Amendment. However, he deferred ruling on the portion of the law involving signs within rights-of-way, until the litigants had provided additional argument.

    On October 2, 2018, Judge Walker issued a lengthy ruling that the plaintiffs had not met their burden of showing that the portion of the Outdoor Advertising Law prohibiting signs within a highway right-of-way violated the First Amendment.

    You can read more on the case at The Sunday Minefield.

    Insiders Take – It has been widely accepted that Alaska has a state wide ban on billboards.  Insider wonders if this first amendment suit might spawn other first amendment lawsuits in the state.



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