Doughnut Holes

Posted on May 10, 2006
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What do a steaming hot cup of coffee, a glazed doughnut and a frozen mocha chill all have in common?  According to the Arizona Court of Appeals, they are all visual blight.

Three years ago, a Mesa code enforcement officer forced Edward Salib to remove every one of the signs advertising the monthly specials from the windows of his doughnut shop.  The City’s sign code prohibits businesses from covering more than 30 percent of a window with signage.

Salib filed a lawsuit to vindicate his constitutional right to communicate with his customers free from arbitrary government restrictions.  Salib was confident of victory because Mesa utterly failed to carry its burden to demonstrate that the challenged law “directly advanced” any legitimate governmental interest.

The Court of Appeals ruled that Mesa has a legitimate interest in protecting its citizens from aesthetic harm and concluded that the code’s statement of purpose was evidence enough to establish that the law directly advances that interest.  The holding contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court’s well-settled test for determining when a law restricting speech oversteps constitutional bounds.

Our constitution demands robust protection for all forms of speech, but Arizona’s appellate court has punched holes in the document.

Tim Keller is the executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter and the lead attorney in Salib v. City of Mesa. Keller is also the co-author of the Goldwater Institute policy report “This Land is My Land: Eminent Domain Reform After Kelo v. City of New London.”

Key Links:

-Institute for Justice: IJ Challenges Mesa, Arizona’s Sign Ordinance on Behalf of Doughnut Shop Owner
- East Valley Tribune: "Ruling supports Mesa business-sign regulation"
-Court of Appeals: Salib v. City of Mesa

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