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This will be the first of several posts relating to the recent Supreme Court decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, and will primarily provide the factual and procedural background for the case. In this case, the Supreme Court struck down significant parts of a Town code regulating signs on First Amendment grounds. More specifically, the Court ruled that because the sign code made content-based distinctions between the signs, strict scrutiny should apply, a decision which could potentially invalidate countless sign codes across the country based on how widely it is interpreted.

The Town of Gilbert has a comprehensive code regulating the display of outdoor signs, with categories and restrictions based on the type of information the sign conveys. At issue here are three categories in particular: “Ideological Signs,” “Political Signs,” and “Temporary Directional Signs Relating to a Qualifying Event” (“TD Signs” direct to an event that is religious, charitable, education, etc.). Ideological signs may be up to 20 sq. ft. and placed without time limits. Political signs may be up to 16 sq. ft. on residential property and 32 sq. ft. on nonresidential property, 60 days before and 15 days after an election. TD Signs may be no larger than 6 sq. ft., can only be posted between 12 hours before and one hour after said event, and are limited to 4 signs on a single property.

The case at issue was brought by the pastor of a small church. Due to the small size of the congregation, the church does not have its own building and accordingly has to shift its location on a week to week basis. To facilitate this, the church members post signs on Saturdays to inform people of the location and time of the Sunday service, removing the signs after services end. After being repeatedly cited for this practice, the church and its pastor brought suit against the Town on the grounds that the sign code violated their First Amendment rights. This decision is what ultimately followed.