Court Blocks Franklin Lakes Ordinance Limiting Right to Display Political Signs

July 28, 2004

Newark, NJ - The United States District Court issued an order today enjoining the Borough of Franklin Lakes from enforcing an ordinance limiting the right of Borough residents to display political signs in front of their homes. The court accepted the ACLU-NJ's argument that the ordinance likely violates citizens' rights to free speech and expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by Article I, Paragraphs 1 and 6 of the New Jersey Constitution.

"The decision is fully expected. Political speech has a special place in our democracy. Citizens who want to support issues or candidates should not be subject to greater restrictions than someone who wants to sell you a product," said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas.

Judge Katharine S. Hayden found that the Franklin Lakes ordinance subjected political signs to stricter regulations than commercial signs and that the borough presented no interest for such disparity that would pass constitutional scrutiny. The ordinance prohibits any political signs from being displayed until two weeks before an election and requires their removal two days after an election. The ordinance also requires political signs to be set back ten feet from the curb and to be no more than 2'x3' in dimension, making it hard to be viewed by passersby. Commercial signs are generally permitted to be larger in size and with a smaller or no set back requirement.

The lawsuit is captioned Boehm v. Borough of Franklin Lakes. The plaintiff, Dr. Ed Boehm, is a Democratic candidate for Borough Council. Dr. Boehm seeks to utilize the placement of signs at his and his supporters' residences to gain name recognition and to convey his positions on issues. The attorney representing Dr. Boehm on behalf of the ACLU-NJ is Lewis Robertson of Red Bank, New Jersey.

Category: Free Speech

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