Former Newhouse Dean suing the town of Manlius over lawn sign restrictions

“This is not about money; this is about the First Amendment”

— David Rubin believes that restrictions on political lawn signs in the town of Manlius are unconstitutional and limit the speech of the people who live there. And after unsuccessfully trying to communicate with town officials about changing the sign ordinance that sets the rules for political signs, Rubin filed a lawsuit against town of Manlius Supervisor Ed Theobald and the town councilors on Aug. 6.

“I’m not asking for, nor will I receive any money,” said Rubin, a professor and dean emeritus at Syracuse University, who lives in Manlius. “This is not about money; this is about the First Amendment and the rights of all residents of Manlius to use their lawns to put up political signs whenever they want to without having to get permission from the town.”

Rubin said he didn’t know about the limitations on political signs within the town until 2006, when he put up election signs on his lawn and was told to take them down by town officials. In the town of Manlius, residents may not put up political lawn signs prior to 30 days preceding election day and must take all signs down no later than seven days following the election. Residents are also required to obtain a permit from the town before putting up signs.

Rubin complied, even though he knew from teaching a class called “Communications Law for Journalists” at S.U. that the issue had already been litigated all the way to the Supreme Court back in 1994, in the case of Ladue v. Gilleo. A woman, Gilleo, put up a sign in her yard protesting the Gulf War and was told to take it down by the city of Ladue. She took the city to court, where the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Gilleo’s rights to speak were more important than the city’s rights to beautify the community.

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