Thursday, February 22, 2018

Candidate files lawsuit alleging Hamilton County sign ordinance violates political speech

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Rick Sharp filed a lawsuit today in Hamilton County Superior Court 4 alleging the county's sign ordinance is violating political free speech.

The county commissioners voted unanimously Feb. 12 to enact a $500 fine for placing signs in the unincorporated areas they control, largely targeting the right of way along roads. Candidate signs that pop up every election are the biggest offenders, though signs advertising open houses and homebuilders are a close second.

Sharp's attorney, Tim Stoesz, filed the lawsuit alleging the ordinance violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit asks Judge William Hughes to set aside the ordinance and award Sharp legal fees.

Sharp thinks the ordinance will disadvantage lesser-known candidates, people who have little name recognition or money for TV spots and mailers.

"I believe this infringes on free political speech, and there is no more precious form of speech in this country than political free speech," said Sharp. "I think it's also a blatant effort by entrenched and established politicians to favor their candidates."

Legal experts say Sharp has an uphill climb based on past Supreme Court case rulings.

Sharp is a former Carmel Council president. He is running in the Republican primary for an open seat on the Hamilton County Council against information technology professional Sheldon Barnes, Carmel Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley and Ken Alexander, the former director of Westfield's Grand Park Sports Campus.

Sharp said candidate signs provide name recognition, which he thinks is one of the most important factors in winning elections. He said voters who see his campaign signs may decide to find out more information about him as a candidate.



Paul Weber said...

Personally I don't want to see any election signs earlier than 90 days prior to the election and no more than 3 days after the election. I want a break from the people who start publicly running for office shortly after the last election! Don't these people have a job?!

Anonymous said...

I have never been influenced by candidate signs.

Anonymous said...

This is a perfectly permissible "time, place and manner" restriction.

There are safety concerns to the signs. There are other places to put the sign. The signs are content neutral.

I guess being that the guy is seeking "name recognition," he feels that the best way to get it is to sue the city and have the taxpayers fund the cost of the lawsuit.

I suspect that the voters will remember him, just not in the manner he hopes.

Anonymous said...

Sharp and his attorney are idiots.
There is no suppression of speech. All that this law does is stop county land being co-opted to host messages - political or otherwise.
There is no right to force entities to host any speech - and this law seems to be completely content-neutral.

Bird of Paradise said...

Some Trump Voter got tiered of people steealing his Trump sign in his own front yard so he boobietraped it soon after some jerk tried to steal it and got a rather unpleasent shock and he was arrested and charged with Trespassing