Judges toss out Scottsdale’s ban on sign walkers

The Arizona Court of Appeals tossed out the city of Scottsdale’s ban on “sign walkers”—people who carry signs to advertise local businesses.

Scottsdale had completely banned sign walkers from using public sidewalks and other public spaces, according to a press release. The ban carries stiff penalties, including jail time.

On June 30, the Arizona Court of Appeals threw out this ban, saying Scottsdale could regulate, but not ban, the industry, according to the release.

“This is a victory for the little guy against the government Goliath. Scottsdale tried to extinguish an entire industry and the people who earn their living in an innocent way. The court decided that Scottsdale can reasonably regulate sign walkers, but cannot ban them. That’s the right balance,” stated Clint Bolick, the vice president of litigation for the Goldwater Institute, in the release.

In 2008, the Arizona Legislature passed a law that pre-empted city bans on sign walkers’ use of public sidewalks and made the practice legal throughout the state. But Scottsdale continued to enforce its ban, according to the release.

The legislature then passed a new state law in 2014 to force Scottsdale to lift its ban. Rather than comply with the new law, Scottsdale filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming its authority as a charter city trumps state law, stated the release.

Sign walkers, represented by the Goldwater Institute, joined the lawsuit to defend the state law, according to the release.

The Goldwater Institute represents Jim Torgeson and his company, Sign King, LLC, because Scottsdale’s ban violates his and his employees’ right to free speech under the Arizona and U.S. constitutions, according to the release.

According to the release, article 2, section 6 of the Arizona Constitution provides: “Every person may freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right.” Scottsdale’s ban prohibits human-held signs with commercial messages. Specifically, the Institute argued that protecting free speech is a statewide interest that justifies the state statute and pre-empts Scottsdale’s sweeping ban.

“Two separate court decisions have now said Scottsdale’s ban is out of line. We hope Scottsdale will drop this lawsuit and stop using taxpayer resources to try to put people out of work,” stated Mr. Bolick.

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

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