A federal court  in Arizona recently ruled a Phoenix zoning ordinance violated the United States Constitution.  The origin of this dispute began on October 12, 2022, when the Phoenix City Council adopted Resolution 22073.  The purpose of the resolution was to establish a Special Promotional and Civic Event area in downtown Phoenix to support events and activities related to Super Bowl LVII. This Resolution permitted the use of temporary signs that would ordinarily not be permitted in the downtown area, consistent with Phoenix Zoning Ordinance, Section 705.F.1.b. However, Resolution 22073 added to the ordinary sign approval process the requirement that all temporary signs needed to be authorized by the NFL or the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.

Bramley Paulin, a property owner in the area, who wanted to erect temporary signage on his property, couldn’t find anyone willing to advertise for fear of getting crosswise with the NFL.  He wound up going to court to challenge the law.  The court agreed with Paulin that the Resolution was unconstitutional. As it noted, “[t]he City, hence, set up a circumstance in which a private entity is given the authority to make content-based decisions on speech. There is no legitimate government interest in content-based regulation of signs, let alone regulation of signs based on the content preferences of private businesses that are given special privileges by the government.”

It also found that the Resolution violated Paulin’s due process rights because “[t]he Host Committee is not required to advise [Paulin] of their reasons [for rejecting the sign], and [Paulin] has no avenue to review their decision.”

The court ordered the city to consider Paulin’s sign request “subject to its ordinary, content-neutral rules for temporary signage in a Special Promotional and Civic Events zone” – i.e. without giving the NFL veto power.

Let’s hope Paulin is able to erect a sign.  Nice to see the little guy win one!