Local News

Cary wins federal appeal in house-sign fight

Posted January 22, 2013

— A U.S. appeals court has overturned a federal ruling that the Town of Cary violated a resident's freedom of speech when it fined him for violating the town's sign ordinance.

In August 2009, David Bowden painted the phrase "Screwed By The Town of Cary" on his Maynard Road home after, he claimed, a road-widening project caused drainage problems on his property.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina sued on Bowden's behalf, and in December 2010, U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan found that the town infringed upon Bowden's right to express a message of political protest when it tried to enforce the ordinance, which specifies how and where signs can be displayed.

Cary was subsequently ordered to pay more than $46,000 in attorney fees and court costs.

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled Friday that the ordinance does not violate the First Amendment.

"We are very pleased with the court’s affirmation of our fair and balanced treatment of community standards and the First Amendment," Lisa Glover, assistant attorney for Cary, said in a statement. "We appreciate all the support we received from local governments across the United States."

Bowden died of cancer in June 2011.

39 Comments

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  • Bec0522 Jan 25, 9:47 a.m.

    Too bad that man didn't get to see justice serviced. Town of Cary sucks...

  • iluvjunk Jan 22, 7:48 p.m.

    FYI, you can go outside in Cary in your PJs, no law against that. The only thing preventing you is you own self confidence. I grill on the back porch in my boxers sometimes. I have a Jeep in the side yard and several cars in the driveway. I can put up my own signs so long as they conform to the regs. I can even fly the flag if I want. So Cary isn't as bad as you play it up to be.
    GravyPig
    January 22, 2013 4:37 p.m.

    You made my point for me. Where I live we DO NOT have to comply or conform to City Regulations.

  • Bartmeister Jan 22, 7:17 p.m.

    Let the ACLU pay the fees.

  • lwe1967 Jan 22, 7:10 p.m.

    This is a State issue. The feds shouldn't have have been in on in to begin with. What has happened to States Rights. The feds are taking everything away from the States.

  • stthomp67 Jan 22, 6:53 p.m.

    So how much did this appeal cost Cary residents?
    Just like Cary to save face and spit on a deceased man.

  • GravyPig Jan 22, 6:07 p.m.

    Well said NCCaniac.

  • Marty King Jan 22, 5:47 p.m.

    Cary, yankee laws for Yankees.

  • NCCaniac Jan 22, 5:29 p.m.

    Everyone who is saying Cary is unfair here...stop and think about they have to respect the rights of not only this homeonwer, but all the other homeowners. If you were a neighbor to this person who spray paints a protest sign on his house, what does that do to YOUR property values? What about your rights? The town was trying to balance his right to free speech with the rights of his neighbors, plus the safety issues it caused on the road with people gawking at the sign. He had the right to make his point by posting a sign that was allowed. He chose not to do so.

    With the way political discourse has gone in our country where people cannot discuss things calmly with each other, I am glad Cary has regulations on signs so that my neighbor can't decide to put a large billboard right next to my property.

  • LuvLivingInCary Jan 22, 5:19 p.m.

    all i can say is the neighboorhood where that house is looks pretty good today and someone made some fast cash on using their head and flipping the house.

  • samr Jan 22, 5:12 p.m.

    Cary can put up an ugly green road information sign that usually has nothing on it but takes action against a homeowner. Cary is a good town but its laws are a bit draconian. I like how the attorney takes the court's ruling that the 1st amendment rights were not violated and makes a statement about fair and balanced treatment. She has been watching too much Fox News.

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