Members of the City Council of the City of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent

PETITIONER: Members of the City Council of the City of Los Angeles
RESPONDENT: Taxpayers for Vincent
LOCATION: Board of Immigration Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 82-975
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 466 US 789 (1984)
ARGUED: Oct 12, 1983
DECIDED: May 15, 1984

ADVOCATES:
Anthony Saul Alperin - on behalf of the Appellants
Wayne S. Canterbury - on behalf of the Appellees

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Members of the City Council of the City of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 12, 1983 in Members of the City Council of the City of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in The City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent.

Mr. Alperin, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Anthony Saul Alperin:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case presents the important constitutional issue whether the City of Los Angeles may consistent with the First Amendment prohibit the attachment of signs to items of public and utility property which are located on and along the city streets and sidewalks.

The City submits that the Constitution permits this regulation.

Municipal Code Section 28.04 is the city ordinance at hand.

It prohibits the attachment of signs without regard to their content to enumerated items of public and utility property located along the streets.

Among those items of property on which signs may not be posted are utility poles and their appurtenances and in particular with regard to this case the cross wires which help support those utility poles, traffic and street signs, street lights--

William H. Rehnquist:

What exactly are the cross bars, Mr. Alperin?

Anthony Saul Alperin:

--The cross wires are a wire or cable which attaches the upright wooden utility pole to another pole on the other side of the sidewalk, and that pole is then attached from the top of the pole on the other side of the sidewalk to the top of the wooden utility pole with a wire and it helps support the pole in an upright position.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is any of this in private property, Mr. Alperin?

Anthony Saul Alperin:

Some of it is owned by private utility companies, and what is owned by private utility companies--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

You say some of it.

Much of it?

Anthony Saul Alperin:

--Without knowing exactly how many of the utility poles are owned by private utility companies and how much by the City, they are owned either by the City or by the utility companies.

Those poles which are owned by the City are leased to the private utilities for their wires.

When the private utilities own the utility poles the City leases space for its wires.

Basically these are power wires that the City owns and communication transmission wires, telephone wires which the private utilities own.

So they are jointly used.

They are located, most of them at least, at the edge of the sidewalk next to the roadway.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

You do not think there is for First Amendment purposes any difference between a prohibition against hanging signs from privately owned wires and publicly owned?

Anthony Saul Alperin:

Not with regard to these utility poles.

The City is regulating the attachment of signs on these utility poles and on their appurtenances for public policy reasons, for traffic safety reasons, for reasons of safety to workers who need to climb the poles in order to repair wires and other equipment at the top of the poles and for the purpose of eliminating to the extent that is possible visual clutter which is directly caused by signs that proliferate on these utility poles, on the cross bars, on city street lighting systems and on numerous others of these items of property most of which are public property which are located on and along the streets and the sidewalks.

Warren E. Burger:

In the particular election that was involved here how many candidates were there for all the public offices on that election date?

Have you any idea?

Does the record show anything about that?

Anthony Saul Alperin:

The record does not show exactly how many there were.

There were a number of candidates for this office, at least two, Mr. Vincent and I believe another nonincumbent who was elected to the City Council in that district.

There are 15 City Council districts, and in half of the years half of the members run.

In some of the years we also have a number of city-wide offices which run and there are, of course, always several candidates for various of these offices.