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Free Speech and Billboards

May 03, 1987

This letter expresses my concern over a recent federal judge's ruling requiring the City of Orange to allow 11 billboards to be erected and to fine the city $1,000 per day if it does not comply. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. allegedly based his decision on the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. I strongly disagree with Hatter's decision for several reasons:

Up to this point, local zoning ordinances to protect safety and community environment have worked successfully across the nation for decades. Hatter's ruling seems to ignore this fact, a significant precedent.

The right of free speech is not being denied by limitation of billboards of unacceptable size or location. Adequate media are available to advertise all forms of messages.

Zoning laws, written by local governments, are also guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. Why doesn't Hatter consider protecting this right? It is clearly not the business of the federal government to get involved in making local zoning ordinances.

Perhaps the best way to get this message across would be to invite the billboard company to erect large billboards in front of the judge's quarters and in front of his home. If the billboard company refused to accept our ad, I would hope we could contest this in Hatter's court and get a favorable ruling based on the First Amendment.

OLIVER L. WATSON III

Orange

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