Here’s a follow-up to the story from a couple of weeks ago about McHenry, Illinois, trying to ban costumed advertising mascots. The Ninth Circuit actually ruled this week that a Washington city’s similar attempt to ban "portable signs" violated the First Amendment. Ballen v. City of Redmond, No. 04-35606 (9th Cir. Sept. 15, 2006).
The Redmond ordinance banned "all portable signs" with certain listed exceptions. The plaintiff, owner of the "Blazing Bagels" bagel shop ("blazing"? they aren’t supposed to be set on fire, are they?), refused to comply with the city’s notice that he would have to cease and desist having an employee stand outside wearing a sign. Instead, he sued under the federal civil rights statute seeking a declaratory judgment, and won. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding that the portable sign was "pure commercial speech" and that the city’s portable-sign regulation was not narrowly tailored.
Take note, McHenry: the Ninth Circuit also affirmed the grant of fees and costs to Mr. Ballen, so the failed attempt to ban portable signs has cost the City of Redmond at least $165,508.