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Media Alerts - Interstate Outdoor Advertising, L.P. v. Zoning Board of the Township of Mount Laurel
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February 13, 2013
  Interstate Outdoor Advertising, L.P. v. Zoning Board of the Township of Mount Laurel
Headline: Townships may regulate or limit commercial speech by prohibiting the display of billboards where it has a substantial interest in both the safety and aesthetics of its highways

Area of Law: First Amendment of the United States Constitution

Issue(s) Presented: Does a township ordinance, which prohibits the display of commercial billboards, violate the First Amendment where the Township presented extensive evidence that its regulation advanced the township's goals of traffic safety and aesthetics?

Brief Summary: Interstate Outdoor Advertising, L.P. filed an application with the zoning board of Mount Laurel Township to place four billboards on I-295. Based on a local ordinance, which prohibited the erection of billboards, the Township denied the application, citing its own interests in traffic safety and aesthetics. Interstate then filed suit in the district court, and the court eventually granted the Township's motion for summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the Township had presented "extensive" evidence that its ordinance was a reasonable means of advancing the Township's interests of traffic safety and maintaining the beauty of the Township.

Significance, if Any: Townships may enact a ban on commercial billboards consistent with the First Amendment where they can show that the ban advances their substantial interests in traffic safety and aesthetics and is not overly extensive.

Extended Summary (if applicable):

Interstate Outdoor Advertising, L.P. filed an application with the zoning board of Mount Laurel Township to place four billboards on I-295. The Township relied on a local ordinance that bans billboards in denying the application. The Township cited its own interests in traffic safety and aesthetics as the reason for its denial of Interstate's application. Interstate then filed suit in the District Court, which subsequently granted the Township's motion for summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the Township had presented "extensive" evidence that its ordinance was a reasonable means of advancing the Township's interests of traffic safety and maintaining the beauty of the Township.

In so holding, the Third Circuit reasoned that the Township reasonably relied on studies that suggest that billboards hinder driver safety and cause aesthetic harm. The Township also relied on a report from the Township traffic engineer, who cited 37 articles pertaining to billboards and driver safety and concluded that limiting distractions would increase traffic safety. The Court also noted that the Township produced evidence and testimony that its sign control ordinances had preserved the "'billboard free aesthetic charm and character" of the Township for 23 years. The Court explained that, in the context of billboards, the Supreme Court has deferred to the judgment of legislatures and has also emphasized "the plainly unattractive nature of billboards" when evaluating whether a billboard ban directly advances the township's interests in traffic safety and maintaining its own natural beauty. The Third Circuit relied heavily on a 1981 Supreme Court decision, in which the Court expressly noted "the accumulated, common-sense judgments of local lawmakers . . . that billboard are real and substantial hazards to traffic safety" and cause aesthetic harm. Finally, the Third Circuit also rejected Interstate's claim that the Township was required to produce "specific proof" or generate its own site-specific studies in order to demonstrate how its goals of traffic safety and aesthetics would be advanced by the billboard ban.

For the entire opinion please visit: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/113837p.pdf

Panel (if known): McKEE, Chief Judge, JORDAN, and VANASKIE, Circuit Judges

Argument Date: 10/05/2012

Argument Location:

Date of Issued Opinion: 02/11/2013

Docket Number: No. 11-3837

Decided: Affirmed.

Case Alert Author: Daniel Robert Hess

Counsel: Louis L. D'Arminio, Reginald Jenkins - Counsel for Appellant; Christopher J. Norman, George J. Botcheos- Counsel for Appellee Township of Mount Laurel; Anthony P. Costa - Counsel for Appellee Zoning Board of the Township of Mount Laurel

Author of Opinion: McKEE, Chief Judge:

Circuit: 3rd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Mary E. Levy

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 02/13/2013 02:04 PM     3rd Circuit  

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