Can a city impose a permit fee on citizens for posting political yard signs?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

No. Sometimes government officials can require payment of a small fee for the exercise of First Amendment rights, such as for a permit for a large group to march in a public park or gather in the public streets for a parade. However, the case is much different for a yard sign, because there are no city expenses to defray or offset. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has been vigilant in prohibiting taxes based on the content of speech. In City of Ladue v. Gilleo, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically pointed out that yard or window signs are “an unusually cheap or convenient form of communication” and that “especially for persons of modest means … a yard or window sign may have no practical substitute.”