Interstate Outdoor Adver., L.P. v. Zoning Bd. of the Twp. of Mount Laurel

A. JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW


We have jurisdiction to review a final decision of a district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The District Court had federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

We exercise plenary review over a grant of summary judgment. Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp. v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 316 F.3d 431, 443 (3d Cir.2003). In reviewing the decision of the district court, we assess the record using the same summary judgment standard used by district courts. Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278 (3d Cir.2000). To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “In making this determination, [we] must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party’s favor.” Farrell, 206 F.3d at 278 (internal quotations omitted).

Because Ordinance 2008–12 concerns both commercial and noncommercial speech, we must conduct two distinct but related inquiries.

B. THE IMPACT ON COMMERCIAL SPEECH


Ordinance 2008–12 clearly limits Interstate’s commercial speech. Since there is no allegation that Interstate’s billboards are misleading or advance illegal activity, the billboards are entitled to the protection of the First Amendment. Accordingly, the ordinance can only withstand Interstate’s challenge if it serves a substantial governmental interest and is no more extensive than necessary to advance that interest. Central Hudson, 447 U.S. at 566, 100 S.Ct. 2343.

Mount Laurel bears the burden of establishing the constitutionality of Ordinance 2008–12. Bd. of Trs. of the State Univ. of N.Y. v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469, 480, 109 S.Ct. 3028, 106 L.Ed.2d 388 (1989). “This burden is not satisfied by mere speculation or conjecture; rather, a governmental body seeking to sustain a restriction on commercial speech must demonstrate that the harms it recites are real and that its restriction will in fact alleviate them to a material degree.” Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U.S. 761, 770–71, 113 S.Ct. 1792, 123 L.Ed.2d 543 (1993) (citations omitted).

The parties agree that Mt. Laurel has a substantial interest in both the aesthetics and safety of its highways. However, we must also consider the “fit” between the legislative ends and the means chosen to accomplish them. See Rubin v. Coors Brewing Co., 514 U.S. 476, 115 S.Ct. 1585, 131 L.Ed.2d 532 (1995).

Mount Laurel presented extensive evidence before the District Court to support its contention that Ordinance 2008–12 directly advances the Township’s goals of traffic safety and aesthetics. The evidence included a December 8, 2010 report from the Mount Laurel Township Traffic Engineer that reviewed 37 articles pertaining to billboards and traffic safety, and concluded that limiting the number of driver distractions would advance the goal of traffic safety. The evidence also included expert reports and deposition testimony of the Township’s planner. The planner testified that Mount Laurel’s sign control ordinances had effectively preserved the “billboard free aesthetic charm and character” of the Township for 23 years.