Local Government and the Regulation of Speech

How the First Amendment Affects Regulation of Political Signs, Political Speech by Employees, and Government Speech

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A


Conducted on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Recorded event now available

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Program Materials

This CLE webinar will guide counsel to local governments on how to lawfully regulate the display of political signs and public employee campaigning on municipal property--without violating federal and state constitutions.

Description

It seems that election season never stops. Campaign signs and billboards are flooding every city and town, along with complaints about sign clutter. Local governments must also deal with complaints about public employees campaigning on municipal or county property.

Although political speech is at the core of First Amendment protection, some local regulation of the "time, place and manner" in which political discourse occurs is constitutional. The law in this area is notoriously complicated, however, and local governments frequently lose litigation over political and protest signs.

What are the constitutional limits on the regulation of political signs? Can political signs be regulated as a distinct class? Must a city allow the signs on public property? Can a political sign be so extreme that its display is a crime? Can public employees campaign on work time or in the workplace?

Listen as our authoritative panel of land use and First Amendment legal specialists explains the regulations that local governments may place upon the display of political signs and upon public employees' activities--without violating the federal and state constitutions. The panel will also discuss cases where regulations of political posters and employees' political speech have been ruled unconstitutional and the implications of the Supreme Court's Reed v. Town of Gilbert decision on this complex area of law.

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Outline

  1. Regulating political signs
    1. Political signs as a distinct category
    2. Limits on size, height, number, and placement
    3. Reed v. Town of Gilbert
    4. Duration rules: limiting the time of display
    5. Post-election removal requirements
    6. Permits, registrations, fees, and removal bonds
    7. Mandatory disclosure of sponsorship
    8. Banning signs and electioneering near the polls
  2. Addressing campaign activity by public employees
    1. Garcetti v. Ceballos (U.S. Supreme Court, 2006) (public employee's free speech rights when speaking in an official capacity)
    2. State or city laws restricting political activity by certain public employees
  3. Addressing government speech

Benefits

The panel will review these and other crucial questions:

  • What issues must the municipal attorney consider when determining whether time limits for political signs are lawful?
  • Can local governments impose any content restrictions on political signs and literature?
  • How does current case law address participation by public employees in campaign activities on local government property?
  • Can the political speech rights of public employees, even while off duty and at home, be limited as a term of employment?

Faculty

Hazelbaker, Mark
Mark Hazelbaker

Senior counsel
Kasieta Legal Group

Mr. Hazelbaker advises small businesses and communities in employment law, land use, litigation and legislation. His...  |  Read More

Makarious, Mina
Mina S. Makarious

Partner
Anderson & Kreiger

Mr. Makarious represents clients on municipal, airport, environmental, and construction matters. His airport work...  |  Read More

Weinstein, Alan
Alan C. Weinstein, JD

Professor of Law
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University

Mr. Weinstein is a nationally-recognized expert on planning law and lectures frequently on the topic. He has...  |  Read More

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