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John Donnelly & Sons, Inc. v. Campbell

ELR Citation: 11 ELR 20091
Nos. No. 79-1575, 639 F.2d 6/(1st Cir., 12/22/1980) Rev'd

The First Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing a district court judgment, holds that the Maine Traveler Information Services Act, which abolishes billboards completely and decreases significantly the number, size, and content of all other signs viewable from public highways, unconstitutionally abridges First Amendment rights. The court initially decides that the stastute, enacted to protect the state's natural resources, enhance tourism, and improve highway safety, is not impermissibly directed to content. To some extent, however, the Act is content related in that it limits the types of information that may be presented on signs. An assessment of its constitutionality requires a balancing between the extent to which the state's interests are entitled to protection and the extent of the Act's content-related restrictions on speech. The court first rules that there is insufficient support in the record for a ban on billboards as an attempt to improve highway safety. However, the statute does advance Maine's interests in protecting its environment and tourist industry. In this respect, the statute serves legitimates state interests that justify the restrictions placed upon commercial speech, despite its impact on plaintiffs' businesses and the distinction it draws between on-premise and off-premise advertising. Nevertheless, the court concludes that the statute impermissibly restrains ideological speech, which has long been afforded maximum protection. Maine's concerns with protecting its environment and tourist industry, although legitimate, are not sufficiently compelling to justify the near total ban on all noncommercial speech. Even though some political, social, cultural, and religious signs are permitted under this law, the court finds those exceptions too narrowly drawn to render the statute constitutional.

A concurring opinion disagrees with the majority's acceptance of the statute on commercial speech grounds because the costs imposed on commercial speech by this near-total ban outweigh the aesthetic benefits accruing to the state.

Counsel for Appellants
Richard P. Holme
Davis, Graham & Stubbs
P.O. Box 185, Denver CO 80201
(303) 892-9400

Donald W. Perkins
Pierce, Atwood, Scribner, Allen, Smith & Lancaster
One Monument Sq., Portland ME 04101
(207) 773-6411

Counsel for Appellees
Cabanne Howard, Allan A. Toubman, Ass't Attorneys General
State House, Augusta ME 04330
(207) 289-3661

Thomas G. Reeves
Department of Transportation
Transportation Bldg., Augusta ME 04333
(207) 289-2681

Before Aldrich, Bownes, and Pettine,* JJ.