ACLU challenges Bedford sign ordinance limiting political expression

A Bedford man who was told he faced fines of $300 a day because of political signs he posted on his property has filed a federal lawsuit against the city with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

Samuel Shaw’s suit was filed Monday on behalf of Shaw and Bedford residents who ACLU of Indiana said in a statement face a newly enacted ordinance regulating yard signs that stifles political expression. The suit claims the ordinance violates the First and the 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and aims to halt enforcement of the ordinance the city adopted in September.
Shaw had placed several signs in his yard that express his opinions about political candidates and issues, ACLU said in a statement, but last month he received a letter from the city’s planning and zoning director informing him he was in violation of the ordinance and that the “penalty for sign violations is $300 per day.” He removed the signs from his property, but he still wishes to express his views.

According to the suit, Bedford’s ordinance limits property owners to posting one temporary outdoor sign and one small sign in a window. Any other signs must be tied to a special event, sale or rental of property, an open house, or be mandated by law. Bedford residents are limited to no more than a total of six outdoor signs at any time.

The suit says Shaw had about 12 signs on his property at the time the city passed the ordinance, and that the signs are being regulated unconstitutionally on the basis of their content. The suit also claims the city’s regulations are unconstitutionally vague.

The suit, Samuel Shaw v. City of Bedford, Indiana, 4:16-cv-00190, is before Judge Sarah Evans Barker in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division.

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