In an August 22, 2011 letter to Eugene’s city attorney, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (“ACLU”) stated that it intends to sue the city if it does not suspend enforcement of the city’s sign code. The dispute stems from a controversial transit project that the Lane County Transit District has proposed for west Eugene. The city believes some signs that some property owners opposing the project have posted violate the sign code. The ACLU contends that the sign code is unconstitutional under both the Oregon and U.S. Constitutions. The ACLU asserts that the sign code restricts speech on the basis of its content and acts as a prior restraint on speech. A more detailed discussion of the issues, along with a copy of the ACLU’s letter, can be found here.
Sign codes are a proverbial thorn in the side of many cities and, by extension, city attorneys. Oregon’s Constitution – or at least the way the Oregon Supreme Court has interpreted its free expression provision – only makes this thorn larger and more painful. We will monitor the progress on this interesting sign dispute and update the blog in the weeks to come.