State v. DeAngelo

The ACLU-NJ participated as amicus in a case in which a union member was cited for violating Lawrenceville's sign ordinance by displaying a 10 foot inflatable rat during a union protest. Lawrenceville has a comprehensive sign ordinance that among other things prohibits: " . . . balloon signs or other inflated signs (excepting grand opening signs)." The majority decision in the Appellate Division held that the ordinance was content neutral despite the fact that certain commercial speech (grand opening signs) received more protection than political speech. The majority wrote that "the government's purpose [of fostering new businesses] is the controlling consideration" and that the ordinance was narrowly-tailored to enhance aesthetics and protect health and safety. One judge dissented based on the lack of content neutrality, noting that the ordinance would allow the Disney Store to display a 10-foot rat at its grand opening to promote the DVD for the movie "Ratatouille" but would not allow a similar rat to be displayed for political purposes. The ACLU-NJ submitted a brief outlining the extensive protections courts have provided for non-commercial speech, explain that the ordinance does indeed make impermissible restrictions based on the content of the speech, and explain why the majority's analysis was completely misguided.

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