Sign ordinance
10:10 am
Tue February 21, 2012

High court will not hear St. Louis "eminent domain" sign case

Updated at 1:25 with statement from the city.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined a request to review an opinion from a lower federal appeals court that allowed a St. Louis man to keep a mural that protests eminent domain.

The 8th Circuit ruled in July that major portions of St. Louis city's sign ordinance were unconstitutional because they were based on a sign's content, rather than on objective standards. Attorneys for Jim Roos, who painted the sign on the side of an apartment building he owns, wanted the Supreme Court to hear the case to secure "strong free speech" protections for residents in states other than those covered by the 8th Circuit. (Those states are Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.)

"Where you live should not dictate how much legal protection your speech receives," Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, said in a statement. "Although Jim Roos and his fellow citizens in the 8th Circuit are now protected, we will not rest until it is clear that no municipality may restrict speech because of disagreement with the subject or message it conveys."

St. Louis city counselor Patricia Hageman issued the following statement:

"Of course we are disappointed that the Court decided not to accept review.  There is a clear split in the federal circuits as to how municipalities may regulate signs such as this one.  The federal appellate approaches are not uniform and the law in this area continues to evolve. There was an opportunity for the Court to clarify conflicting federal law in this area and establish guidelines for municipalities, but unfortunately that need will not be addressed within the context of this case.  In the meantime, the City will continue to look at its own ordinances and amend them as necessary."

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