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North Kingstown Agrees to Restraining Order Allowing Political Signs

Posted: October 22, 2010|Category: Free Speech Rights of Candidates

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The Town of North Kingstown has agreed to the entry of a temporary restraining order limiting enforcement of a constitutionally problematic political sign ordinance that the Rhode Island ACLU challenged in federal court on Wednesday. The agreement eliminates the need for a planned court hearing this afternoon on the ACLU’s request for a restraining order.

The suit was filed by ACLU volunteer attorney Richard A. Sinapi on behalf of independent Congressional candidate John O. Matson, who was forced to take down a number of his political signs this month after being notified that they violated the town’s zoning restrictions on the size and placement of such signs. A major component of the ACLU’s lawsuit is that the ordinance treats political signs in a discriminatory manner, allowing other types of signs in both residential and commercial areas to be larger and stay up longer. This, the suit argues, “impermissibly infringes on freedom of speech based on content and is therefore unconstitutional on its face.”

Under the restraining order, the Town has agreed it will not subject political signs “to more stringent size or other limitations than that imposed on non-political signs.” The order further provides that the Town won’t enforce another provision of the ordinance banning the posting of political signs on trees. As a result, Matson is now free to re-erect the signs he was previously forced to take down.

Additional proceedings in the case, to address the ACLU’s request for permanent relief, will take place after the election.

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