Florissant, ACLU-EM Reach Agreement in Political Signs Lawsuit
The City will pay $6,000 in legal fees to ACLU-EM and $1 to M. Christine BredenKoetter over the lawsuit.
The City of Florissant and the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri (ACLU-EM) reached a consent judgment Tuesday regarding the political signs lawsuit filed last year.
Florissant City attorney John Hessel said the city won the suit, but the city had to pay a portion of the legal fees as well as pay M. Christine BredenKoetter $1 for the inconvenience of removing the sign. The ACLU filed the suit on BredenKoetter's behalf.
“I’m offended the lawsuit was filed,” Hessel said. “The lawsuit should have never been filed.”
The ACLU-EM filed the lawsuit on behalf of BredenKoetter in January 2011 after the city sent a notice to her home to take down her mayoral political sign for her husband, former Ward 6 City Councilman Andrew Podleski. The notice said that she violated a city ordinance where political signs could not be posted more than 30 days before an election.
Following the lawsuit’s filing, the City Council amended the ordinance in February and again in June to eliminate restrictions on the political signs. Hessel said that the ordinance as it stands now, with its amendments, “satisfies the court interpretation of the first amendment.”
According to the ACLU-EM press release, the judge ruled that the original ordinance did restrict BredenKoetter’s right to free speech by removing the sign.
“We challenged the city of Florissant’s ordinance regarding the duration, time, size, and number limitations for political yard signs, and the specialized enforcement mechanism for political signs, which allowed the mayor to order signs removed from yards,” Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU-EM, said in a press release.
“In election years, yard signs pop up as predictably as dandelions,” Brenda L. Jones, executive director of the ACLU-EM, said in a press release. “Local governments can’t infringe on this free speech right by treating political signs different from other types of commercial yard signs.”
Hessel said that the city will pay 25-30 percent, or $6,000, of legal fees incurred by the ACLU-EM.