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ACLU wins day-old political-sign suit

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Within a day of filing a federal lawsuit regarding Plainfield's ordinance restricting political campaign signs, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana can claim another win on an issue that's becoming more prominent statewide.

The civil liberties group filed a suit Tuesday morning in the U.S. District Court's Southern District of Indiana challenging the town's 10-year-old ordinance, which prohibits residents from posting political signs more than 30 days before an election and more than 10 days afterward. Resident Nick Crews had received a letter Sept. 10 from the local planning department notifying him he'd illegally posted a sign in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on his front lawn.

Crews removed the sign and contacted the ACLU.

In response, Plainfield has agreed to a 90-day enforcement moratorium and to allow residents to place political signs in their yards, town attorney Mel Daniels said. A board meeting is set for Monday to announce the resolution, and officials will then look at revising the ordinance, he said.

This case is the first time since the ordinance passed that anyone has questioned it, Daniels said. The ordinance was passed to help maintain the town's appearance and also ensure that all signs are taken down within a reasonable time frame following an election, he said.

"We'll go through the caselaw on that and see what needs to be done," he said. "But the restriction on time looks like it isn't supportable, and we'll probably have to take it out."

This is the fourth suit the state ACLU has filed and won relating to political signs and free speech rights, according to the organization's legal director Ken Falk. He plans to meet with the federal judge Monday to discuss ending the suit.

Previously, the ACLU has won similar suits in Noblesville and Valparaiso, and another suit from Highland is currently being resolved in an identical way, Falk said. Meanwhile in Plainfield, plaintiff Crews is pleased with the quick resolution and that his suit helped bring attention to the issue in what he describes as probably the most important election in modern history. He's placed his Obama sign on the front lawn again.

"Signs are great dialogue starters and a way to get people to talk about these issues," he said. "We're not being intrusive or forcing our opinions on anyone else. We just want to start a dialogue with neighbors, and it's important to talk about these issues. Citizens should be able to participate in that way - it's our constitutional right."

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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