Glendale, OH Free Speech

Pagan v. Fruchey
Banning “For Sale” Signs: The Latest Sign of a Growing Nanny State

In July 2003, the City of Glendale, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, threatened Chris Pagan with a hefty fine and even jail time because he put a “for sale” sign in the window of his car.  Glendale bans the words “for sale” from parked cars because it thinks people will walk into traffic and get run over while looking at them. 

Ordinarily, such paternalism is not a justification for banning speech, but the City claims Chris’ “for sale” sign is “commercial speech”—which receives less protection under the First Amendment than political speech or artistic expression.

Chris decided to stand up for his First Amendment rights and filed a federal lawsuit challenging Glendale’s ban.  Unfortunately, both the federal district court and a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Glendale, citing the lesser protection afforded so-called commercial speech.

The Institute for Justice believes that all speech is vital to a free society and deserves the full and equal protection of the First Amendment.  For the First Amendment to mean anything, it must mean that government cannot censor ordinary speech for our own good, even if that speech is “commercial.  So IJ took up Chris’ cause and convinced the full 6th Circuit to review the case.


Essential Background


Backgrounder: Banning “For Sale” Signs: The Latest Sign of a Growing Nanny State

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Latest Release: U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Review “For Sale” Sign Ban, Cementing Landmark First Amendment Victory (December 3, 2007)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Full 6th Circuit Decision (pdf)

Launch Release: Banning “For Sale” Signs: Latest Sign of a Growing Nanny State (October 10, 2006)


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit: 


July 30, 2003

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio



October 1, 2004:  District Court upheld Glendale’s speech ban

May 19, 2006:  3-judge panel of the 6th Circuit also upheld the speech ban

June 2, 2006:  IJ took up the case asked the full 6th Circuit to review the case and strike down Glendale’s ban



September 6, 2006:  Full 6th Circuit agreed to rehear the case

June 29, 2007:  Full 6th Circuit overturned sign ban

Current Court:


6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals



Awaiting decision by City on Appeal

Next Key Date:



Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: “For Sale” Sign to High Court? Chris Pagan & IJ Will Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Decline Case & Preserve First Amendment Victory (October 3, 2007)

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Release: “For Sale” is Free Speech: Federal Appeals Court Victory for Commercial Speech (June 29, 2007)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: “For Sale” Victory Now Final; Liberty & Law (February 2008)

Article: Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Censorship of Commercial Speech; Liberty & Law (August 2007)

Article: “For Sale” Is Free Speech, Liberty & Law (December 2006)

Release: Federal Appeals Court to Decide: Is “For Sale” Free Speech? (December 5, 2006)

Article: Ohioan fights for right to put 'for sale' sign on car USA Today (December 6, 2006)

Article: Court to decide battle over 'for sale' sign Associated Press (December 5, 2006)

Article: Sign case gets rare hearing Cincinnati Enquirer (December 4, 2006)

Article: First Amendment case shows how petty speech bans threaten us all Cincinnati Enquirer (December 3, 2006)

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