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US Supreme Court to Hear Sign Case

Nation’s highest court to weigh appeal of City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas.

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The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has decided to hear the appeal of a case that could have significant ramifications for the sign and graphics industry.

In City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Austin’s sign ordinance was a violation of the SCOTUS 2015 Reed v. Town of Gilbert decision. The city’s sign code treated on-premise digital signs differently than off-premise digital signs (billboards). The court found the distinction to be content-based and therefore unconstitutional.

When the City of Austin (TX) appealed the 5th Circuit’s decision to SCOTUS, the International Sign Association (ISA) joined Scenic Texas and several Texas-based chambers of commerce in filing a joint amicus brief. In representing the interests of the sign and graphics industry, Scenic groups and the business community, the filing helped influence the nation’s highest court to take up the appeal.

Ever since the Reed ruling, the ISA has argued that the traditional regulatory distinction between on-premise signs and billboards is location-based, not content-based. As such, the ISA will likely be submitting a friend-of-the-court brief representing the on-premise sign and graphics industry in support of overturning the 5th Circuit’s decision.

A ruling overturning Austin v. Reagan would leave intact these important distinctions between on- and off-premise signs. However, if the Court upholds the 5th Circuit’s decision, every Department of Transportation regulation and local sign ordinance that differentiates between these two kinds of signs will have to be brought into compliance.

The ISA says it will continue monitoring these legal developments and keep its members informed of the implications. For more information about the organization’s support for overturning the 5th Circuit’s decision, contact sandy.smith@signs.org.

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