United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING
J. Pechman, United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for a
Temporary Restraining Order. (Dkt. No. 11.) Having reviewed
the Motion, the Response (Dkt. No. 13), the Reply (Dkt. No.
15) and all related papers, the Court DENIES the Motion. The
Court declines to hear oral argument on the matter.
Nicholas Power brings this suit against Defendants San Juan
County (the “County”) and San Juan County Auditor
Milene Henley. Plaintiff is a candidate for San Juan County
Prosecuting Attorney and is the sole challenger to incumbent
Randal Gaylord. (Dkt. No. 11 at 2-3.) Plaintiff seeks to
publicize his candidacy by erecting campaign signs throughout
the county, and challenges the constitutionality of a
statement published by Auditor Henley suggesting that
residents “limit the amount of time political signs are
displayed” before an election, and “politely
remove them as soon as possible after an election is
over.” (Id. at 3-5; see also
Dkt. No. 12, Ex. A.) The primary election is set to take
place on August 6, 2018 and the general election on November
6, 2018. (Dkt. No. 11 at 2.)
recently, San Juan County Code (“SJCC) 18.40.400(c)
limited the duration for which political signs may be posted
before and after an election, and provided:
Political signs shall be permitted outright; provided, that
they shall not be erected more than 45 days prior to an
election and shall be removed by the candidate or landowner
no more than 72 hours following an election terminating
candidacy. Political signs shall not exceed six square feet
filed suit in San Juan County Superior Court challenging the
constitutionality of SJCC 18.40.400(c)'s temporal
restrictions. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. 1.) The Superior Court entered
a TRO preventing enforcement of the temporal restrictions on
May 21, 2018, and entered a preliminary injunction on June 1,
2018. (Dkt. No. 2, Ex. 14.)
30, 2018, Auditor Henley published an editorial on the
County's website titled “It's political sign
season!” The editorial provides:
It's election time, and with that comes the annual crop
of political signs, popping up like pesky dandelions across
the countryside. We've been fortunate in San Juan County.
A well-meaning ordinance - now de-toothed by a recent court
action - combined with strong local sentiment has kept our
sign infection to a minimum. . . .
As an administrator of elections, I like yard signs because
they remind people there's an election coming up. Not so
much in some mainland locations, where signs go up eighteen
months before an election. But San Juan County's law -
given recent events, let's just call it a
“guideline” - because it limits the duration of
the signage, effectively alerts people that it's almost
time to vote.
Of course, the reason courts have struck down San Juan
County's, as well as other, political signage laws is
that limiting signage infringes on free speech. Like babies
and apple pie, free speech is something you don't mess
San Juan County's political sign ordinance has never been
enforced. Still, it has become a time-honored local tradition
to limit the amount of time political signs are displayed,
and to politely remove them as soon as possible after an
election is over.
(Dkt. No. 12, Ex. A.)
County does not dispute that the temporal aspects of former
SJCC 18.40.400(C) violated the First Amendment, and has
stipulated to its unconstitutionality. (See Dkt. No.
10.) On June 12, 2018, the San Juan County Council adopted
interim Ordinance No. 14-2008, which amends SJCC 18.40.400(C)
to remove all temporal limitations. (Dkt. ...