[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday rejected [opinion; PDF] a First Amendment challenge to a City of Los Angeles [official website] ban on billboards. Metro Lights, an outdoor advertising company, argued [LA Times report] that the ban on billboard advertising was unconstitutional because the city allowed advertising on bus shelters and other public facilities, a benefit conferred to contractors who installed the structures. The court found such advertising does not undermine the aims of the billboard ban and that the ban is not unconstitutionally underinclusive in the speech it regulates. Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote:
It appears to us, therefore, that the slogan Metro Lights has advanced, that First Amendment rights are not for sale, simply misses the point. Certainly the government cannot silence one speaker but not another because the latter has paid a tax, even though it could constitutionally silence both. But that doesnt mean the City cannot silence speakers in general but permit them to bid for the right to speak on City-owned land, assuming that the speakers on City-owned land do not undermine the goal of the Citys general prohibition.In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned [JURIST report] a Missouri law banning sexually suggestive billboards on highways, saying that it was an unconstitutional infringement on commercial free speech. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously upheld [JURIST report] a federal restriction on tobacco advertisements, including billboards, finding it did not violate the free expression rights of tobacco companies.