St. Louis Free Speech

Neighborhood Enterprises, Inc. v. City of St. Louis
Signs of Abuse: Fighting Censorship and Eminent Domain Abuse in St. Louis

IJ client Jim Roos

IJ client Jim Roos' Mural

In a double blow to free speech and property rights, the city of St. Louis not only threatened to take an entire neighborhood for private development—it tried to censor a powerful and highly visible mural that protests the city’s eminent domain abuse and urges reform of Missouri’s eminent domain laws.

Fed up with eminent domain abuse across Missouri—and against properties owned by the non-profit, low-income housing organization he runs—Jim Roos fought back.  He had a large mural painted on his building at 1806 S. 13th Street, in a neighborhood targeted for redevelopment.  The mural protests the city’s abuse and advocates for statewide eminent domain reform.

But the city of St. Louis wanted the mural taken down.

IJ argued that if the First Amendment means anything, it must mean that citizens like Jim Roos have the right to effectively protest government abuse and build support for meaningful reform—without having to get government approval.

In July 2011, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jim and his claims, providing strong free speech protections for those who wish to speak out on the issues that matter to them.  The city appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in February 2012, declined to take the case.  So the 8th Circuit’s decision, and its strong free speech protections, stand.

Essential Background

Images and Media

Backgrounder: Signs of Abuse: Fighting Censorship and Eminent Domain Abuse in St. Louis

Client Photo

Audio: 8th Circuit argument (February 16, 2011)

Latest Release: St. Louis Eminent Domain Protester Wins Yet Another Court Battle (October 31, 2014)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Order on Motion to Amend Judgment (October 31, 2014)

Summary judgment brief on claims against Board of Adjustment (filed March 16, 2009) (PDF)

Launch Release: Signs of Abuse in St. Louis: Institute for Justice Challenges City’s Censorship Of Anti-Eminent Domain Abuse Mural (November 15, 2007) 8th Circuit opinion reinstating claims against Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (August 29, 2008) (PDF)


Summary Judgment Order Regarding Constitutionality of Sign Code (March 29, 2010) (PDF)


Appellants' Brief (June 10, 2010) (PDF)


Appellants' Reply Brief (October 23, 2010) (PDF)

8th Circuit Opinion (July 13, 2011) (PDF)

Respondents Brief Supporting a Grant of Writ of Certiorari (December 8, 2011) (PDF)

Case Timeline


Filed Amended Complaint: 

November 14, 2007


Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missour




July 13, 2011, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals holds sign code provisions unconstitutional

August 29, 2008, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates claims against Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority 


Current Court:




U.S. Supreme Court rejected Cert


Next Key Date:


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: With Proposed Sign Code Bill, St. Louis Aldermen Would Make Things Worse for All (June 26, 2012)

none available

Release: Supreme Court Won’t Hear St. Louis Sign Case; Sign In Question is Safe, but Law Remains Mixed Nationwide (February 21, 2012)

Release: IJ Scores Major First Amendment Victory For St. Louis Property Owner Protesting Eminent Domain Abuse (July 13, 2011)

Release: Property Owner Should be Allowed to Protest Government WITHOUT the Government’s Permission (February 15, 2011)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links


Article: Appeals exhausted, anti-eminent-domain sign can stay in St. Louis (February 22, 2012)
 Article: In St. Louis, a protest sign meets government arrogance Washington Post (April 1, 2011)
Release: Court Upholds St. Louis’s Attempt to Suppress Eminent Domain Protest Mural (March 29, 2010) Article: IJ Earns Important Civil Rights Decision From 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Liberty & Law (December 2008) 
Release: St. Louis Agency Settles Case with Anti-Eminent Domain Activist (January 28, 2009) Article: Sign of the Times: IJ Defends Intertwined Rights of Property & Speech; Liberty & Law (December 2007) 
Release: 8th Circuit Reinstates Free Speech Challenge To St. Louis Redevelopment Authority’s Suppression of Eminent Domain Mural (August 29, 2008)
Release: 8th Circuit to Hear Challenge To St. Louis Redevelopment Authority's Suppression of Speech (June 10, 2008)






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