City of Ladue v. Gilleo

PETITIONER:City of Ladue
LOCATION:Residence of Margaret Gilleo

DOCKET NO.: 92-1856
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 512 US 43 (1994)
ARGUED: Feb 23, 1994
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1994

Gerald P. Greiman – Argued the cause for the respondent
Jordan B. Cherrick – Argued the cause for the petitioners
Paul Bender – On behalf of the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent

Facts of the case

Margaret Gilleo placed a 24-by-36-inch sign calling for peace in the Persian Gulf on her front lawn. The original sign disappeared and a subsequent sign was knocked down. She reported these incidents to the police who advised her that such signs were prohibited in Ladue. She sued the city and the District Court ordered a preliminary injunction. Ladue repealed the law and replaced it with a new one which also banned window signs. Gilleo then placed another anti-war sign in her second-story window and amended her complaint to challenge the new ordinance.


Does the Ladue ordinance violate Gilleo’s right to free speech as protected by the First Amendment?

Media for City of Ladue v. Gilleo

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – February 23, 1994 in City of Ladue v. Gilleo

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 13, 1994 in City of Ladue v. Gilleo

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

The two opinions that I have to announce are both unanimous.

The first, City of Ladue against Margaret Gilleo, comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

The case involves the constitutionality of a city ordinance that prohibits home owners from displaying any signs on their property except resident’s identification signs or sale signs, and signs warning of safety hazard.

Respondent, the owner of a single family dwelling in Ladue which is a suburb of St. Louis, put an 8.5×11 inch sign in the second story window of her home stating that she was “For Peace in the Gulf”.

Because that sign violated the City’s ordinance, she had brought an action in the Federal Court seeking to enjoin its enforcement.

The District Court held the ordinance invalid as a content-based regulation because the City treated commercial speech more favorably than non-commercial speech and favored some kinds of non-commercial speech over others.

Thus, for example, if permitted a “for sale” sign while it prohibited respondent sign with a political message.

The Court of Appeals affirmed and we granted certiorari.

An ordinance of this kind is subject to constitutional attack on alternative grounds.

On the one hand, it may in effect, restrict too little speech because its exemptions discriminate on the basis on the sign’s messages.

Alternatively, the ordinance may be subject to attack on the ground that it simply prohibits too much speech.

The District Court and the Court of Appeals relied on the former ground.

But, for reasons stated in the opinion filed with the Clerk today, we place our decision on the latter ground.

We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals although on different reasoning than that court adapted.

Justice O’Connor has filed a concurring opinion.