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Plainfield political sign ordinance challenged

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Plainfield ordinance restricting political lawn signs.

Filed this morning in the Southern District of Indiana, the case of Robert N. Crews v. Town of Plainfield seeks to have the local zoning ordinance declared unconstitutional and to stop town officials from enforcing it. Plaintiff Robert N. Crews sued after receiving a letter from the planning department Sept. 10 notifying him he couldn't have a political sign displayed in his front yard because of the rules.

According to the town's 10-year-old local zoning ordinance, those signs can only be posted 30 days prior to the election and must be taken down within five days following the election.

The sign was less than 16-square feet in area, wasn't placed in a right of way, and didn't hinder safety or traffic visibility, the suit says. While the suit doesn't mention by name the presidential candidate the sign supports, Crews confirmed it was in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He removed the sign and hasn't put it back on the lawn since then, but feels his own and his wife's First Amendment rights are being violated, and they want resolution as soon as possible prior to the Nov. 4 election.

The ACLU of Indiana plans to ask the court to issue a preliminary injunction stopping Plainfield from enforcing the ordinance, according to legal director Ken Falk.

This is the fourth suit of its kind the civil rights group has filed in the state, and so far three have been resolved in favor of those wanting to put the signs in their front yards.

In past years, Noblesville and Valparaiso backed down from enforcing political sign restrictions and a proposed settlement in a Highland case is being finalized as the town steps down from enforcing its local ordinance, Falk said.

"It's beyond my comprehension why communities continue to think they can infringe on the First Amendment this way," Falk said. "Numerous cases across the country have struck down these ordinances as a violation, and it's clear that we're talking about a fundamental right of political free speech here .... This is the way all of us have the right to speak about and contribute to campaigns in a very public way."

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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