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Gen. Auto Serv. Station v. City of Chicago

Close Date: 04/20/2009
Status: closed
Citation: 326 F.3d 991
Docket: 08-636


First Amendment: Prior Restraint

The City of Chicago grandfathers some, but not all, lawfully established but now nonconforming outdoor signs. The grandfather status is predicated upon prior compliance with Chicago’s former sign permitting requirement, which violated the First Amendment as an invalid prior restraint on speech. The questions presented are:

  1. Whether a municipality violates the First Amendment when, by reason of an individual’s past exercise of his First Amendment right to ignore an unconstitutional sign permitting requirement, it prohibits the continued display of a lawfully established but now non-conforming outdoor sign.
  2. Whether a municipality’s prohibition of future speech for some speakers otherwise violates the First Amendment, when such prohibition is imposed on the sign owner or operator for having in the past engaged in a certain kind of lawful speech, an issue upon which there is a conflict between federal courts of appeal.
  3. Whether an outdoor sign ordinance and a separate grandfathering provision modifying that sign ordinance are to be treated as a combined single regulation of speech for purposes of determining content-neutrality and constitutionality under the First Amendment, an issue upon which there is a circuit split.

Bonnie Robin-Vergeer of Public Citizen assisted the petitioner at the cert stage, and the Supreme Court denied cert.