City of Ladue v. Gilleo Case Brief

Why is the case important?

A City of Ladue ordinance prohibited homeowners from displaying any signs on property except for residence identification, for sale signs and signs warning of safety hazards. The Petitioner is the City of Ladue (Petitioner). The Respondent, Maragaret Gilleo (Respondent), put a sign on her front lawn that said “Say no to War in the Persian Gulf, Call Congress Now.” Later she put a similar sign in her window.

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 Ladue repealed the law and replaced it with a new one which also banned window signs.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.

Question

Is the Petitioner City’s sign ordinance an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech?

Answer

The ordinance is an unconstitutional abridgement of 1st Amendment constitutional rights. The regulation treated commercial speech more favorably than non-commercial speech and totally foreclosed a means of communication with a sweeping definition of signs. The ordinance was more than just a time, place and manner restriction, since the speech could not be switched to an alternate medium. Further, residents’ self-interest in property values will probably prevent the danger of unlimited proliferation of signs. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) felt a more temperate regulation could meet the Petitioner City’s concerns.

Conclusion

The court held that it was not persuaded that adequate substitutes existed for the important medium of speech that the city ordinance closed off. The court determined that the government’s need to temperate speech from the home was much less pressing than its need to mediate among various competing uses for public streets and facilities.

  • Case Brief: 1994
  • Petitioner: City of Ladue
  • Respondent: Gilleo
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 512 US 43 (1994)
Argued: Feb 23, 1994
Decided: Jun 13, 1994