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Federal Court Ruling on Constitutional Challenge to Postering Regulations in Washington, D.C.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s four-year-long battle to overturn the District of Columbia’s unconstitutional postering regulations has resulted in a significant ruling today for free speech. “District regulations governing how long signs can remain affixed to city lampposts are unconstitutional and need to be rewritten, a federal judge signaled in a court opinion Thursday,” wrote the Washington Post in an article about today’s ruling.

The lawsuit stems from an unprecedented campaign of illegal and unconstitutional fines levied against the ANSWER Coalition for anti-war posters, which now total over $70,000. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) brought a constitutional rights challenge on behalf of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the MASF (Muslim American Society Freedom) to strike down the regulations which favor politicians’ campaign posters and penalize grassroots political speech.

“The reality is that government officials who run for office and make the rules in D.C. give special treatment to their political speech, while fining grassroots speech,” stated Carl Messineo, Legal Director of the PCJF.

“The District has employed an illegal system that creates a hierarchy of speech, favoring the speech of politicians and punishing grassroots outreach,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF. “It’s time for that system to end, and it will.”

The Court’s Ruling

Rejecting the District’s efforts to have the case dismissed, U.S. District Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth instead wrote in his opinion that District officials “can revise the regulations to include a single, across-the-board durational restriction that applies equally to all viewpoints and subject matters. This would address the problem of litter, remove the suspicion that politicians are carving out exceptions to benefit their own campaigns, and uphold the tradition of vibrant free expression in the national’s capital.”

The case will now go forward with the plaintiffs efforts to strike down the unconstitutional postering regulations, and at the same time the ANSWER Coalition continues to battle the $70,000 in outrageous and improper fines it has been assessed in another court proceeding. The attorneys at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund are providing representation in both cases.

The PCJF is litigating and providing legal support and consultation to grassroots activists in cities around the country who are challenging the growing trend of government and law enforcement to criminalize and monetarily fine the distribution of leaflets and posters.

Click here to read the Washington Post article titled “D.C. lamppost sign regulations may be unconstitutional, judge says”