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The Winter 2015 Land Use Law Update asked whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert would require municipalities throughout the country to rewrite their sign codes. The short answer is “yes.”

At a minimum, following the Supreme Court’s decision that the Town of Gilbert’s temporary directional sign regulations violated petitioners Good News Community Church’s and Pastor Clyde Reed’s First Amendment rights, municipalities will want to act quickly to amend their sign codes if they regulate different categories of signs differently. A code that places fewer restrictions on political or ideological signs than on directional signs likely will not withstand judicial review. Whether codes that differentiate between commercial and noncommercial signs will withstand review is an open question, but application of the Court’s content neutrality analysis would appear to require strict scrutiny of even commercial-noncommercial distinctions — and if the governmental justifications for the distinction are aesthetics and traffic safety, which they so often are, this distinction also likely will not withstand judicial review.

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29 Mun. Law. 39