Wyoming Liberty Attorneys Sue City of Cheyenne for Political Sign Regulations
CHEYENNE - Wyoming Liberty Group attorneys sued the City of Cheyenne on behalf of resident Ronald Williams in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming today, challenging provisions of the Cheyenne Unified Development Code (UDC) that restrict political signs on private property as an unconstitutional abridgement of free speech. "The UDC limits Cheyenne residents to two political signs on lots less than one acre, and only allows residents to put these signs up during a certain timeframe," said Steve Klein, co-counsel to Williams. "This censorship unconstitutionally limits one of the cheapest and most effective forms of political speech available to Cheyenne residents."
Throughout the fall season, WyLiberty attorney Boyd Wiggam testified repeatedly before the Cheyenne City Council and worked with some council members and a coalition of concerned citizens on language to amend the UDC to protect free speech. After final reading of this amendment on December 23, it failed to garner the votes necessary to pass.
"Despite our efforts, the council did not amend the unconstitutional provisions," said Wiggam. "What's most unfortunate is that some council members actually believe aesthetics and maintaining property values justify censorship. This not only flies in the face of our Constitution, but common sense."
Ron Williams, a longtime Cheyenne resident, successfully sued the city in state court in 1995 over similar zoning rules. At the time, the city only allowed displaying political signs from 45 days before an election to 10 days afterward. The court struck down the law, but time restrictions on signs were once again ratified in the UDC in 2012 along with numerical limits.
"It's only January, but political races are already underway and I believe the time to speak out is now, not in 10 months," said Williams. "I want to support candidates in local, state and federal elections, but I can't do all of that with just two signs. It's frustrating that after winning my earlier case the city would enact an even more restrictive zoning ordinance, but the First Amendment hasn't changed. I look forward to our day in court."
Cheyenne attorney Tim Kingston, who represented Williams in his earlier suit, also joins this lawsuit as co-counsel.
"In Mr. Williams' prior case, the Court struck down an ordinance virtually identical to the UDC," said Kingston. "It is sad that Mr. Williams must re-litigate the issue, especially when the City already knows and has admitted that its current ordinance is unconstitutional."
Benjamin Barr, lead counsel in WyLiberty's Legal Center, is also co-counsel to Williams.
"We've worked on some very complex speech cases at WyLiberty, but this isn't one of them," said Barr. "This case is about core political speech, and we aim to re-affirm first principles and put the City Council and other city officials on the right track to considering free speech a priority, not a problem to be solved