Can the NFL Horse-Collar Your Speech?
A Phoenix resident struck a victory for the First Amendment in the Maricopa County Superior Court (hat tip to Eugene Volokh for detailing the arguments of this case.)
In October, the Phoenix City Council adopted Resolution 22073 to establish a Special Promotional and Civic Event area in downtown Phoenix in anticipation of events and activities related to Super Bowl LVII. The resolution stipulated that all temporary signs needed to be authorized by the NFL or the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.
Bramley Paulin, the owner of two downtown properties, went to court to defend his First Amendment rights. Paulin claimed that Resolution 22073 constituted prior restraint because it prospectively forbade the expression of any message until it could be reviewed and approved by a private third party. That made it a content-based restriction on speech.
The court agreed with Paulin, also stating that Resolution 22073 is doubly unconstitutional: since the resolution provided no standards to guide decision-makers' discretion, the resolution’s delegation of governmental authority was illegitimate. Judge Bradley Astrowsky wrote that his court “finds that handing over power to an unaccountable third party is totally antithetical to the principles of limited government enshrined in Arizona's Constitution.”
Protect The 1st is pleased to see First Amendment rights protected in Arizona. Enabling private third parties to determine what is or isn’t permissible speech, with unaccountable powers granted to them by state authorities, portrays either startling ignorance of the Constitution or contempt for it.
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