L.A. wins one on billboards

Whether or not City Hall actually wants to take control of billboards is open to interpretation, but today the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a challenge to the city's 2002 ordinance. The 9th Circuit reversed a lower court ruling that bought into Metro Lights LLC's argument that by selling ads on its bus benches, the city of Los Angeles was auctioning off 1st Amendment rights "to the highest bidder" and thus could not ban other signs. Nice try, said the justices: "This is strong, if rather sloganeering, language, but after reviewing the case law on which Metro Lights relies, we believe it to be little more than a canard." David Zahniser at the L.A. Times:

Lawyers with City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said cities across the country -- including some facing lawsuits challenging their own sign laws -- had been waiting to see what the 9th Circuit Court would do. In addition, at least five other lawsuits in Los Angeles have referenced the Metro Lights case, said Deputy City Atty. Kenneth Fong.

The ruling comes as the city's elected officials struggle to limit the size, location and brightness of new signs. Since the ban was approved seven years ago, Delgadillo has had to respond to more than a dozen lawsuits, including one that led to a legal settlement allowing 840 billboards across the city to be converted to digital signs.

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