A Norfolk-based business found relief from a city citation from none other than the US Supreme Court on Monday, June 29. The City of Norfolk issued a citation against Central Radio for displaying what they deemed to be an oversized banner. The problem was that the content of the banner criticized the city, claiming that Norfolk had abused its use of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the process where the government takes private property for public use. Public use has been broadly defined by the US Supreme Court. Lawyers for Central Radio claimed that the city was infringing on its freedom of speech. The city claimed the citation was content-neutral, meaning the speech wasn’t being regulated; just the size of the sign.
Rather than reverse the decision on its own, the US Supreme Court remanded the case back to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to apply the Court’s holding in Reed v. Gilbert. In Reed v. Gilbert, the Court held that a sign ordinance out of Arizona that regulated content “on its face” was unconstitutional. Presumably, the Court of Appeals will determine whether Norfolk’s ordinance relating to Central Radio is content-neutral as applied in Reed. If it isn’t, then Norfolk’s statute will likely be held unconstitutional. If it is content-neutral, then the question of its constitutionality will be a bit more murky.
Private property rights are an important part of our nation’s history and heritage. The government has no right to take your property unless it is for a public purpose and unless they provide just compensation. Don’t risk fighting the government alone. Our Western Tidewater attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help protect your rights.