TENNESSEE HIGHWAY BEAUTIFICATION ACT RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
On March 31, 2017, a federal court ruled that Tennessee's Highway Beautification Act is unconstitutional. The opinion handed down in U.S. District Court in Memphis, in the lengthy and complex case known as Thomas v Schroer, jeopardizes billboard regulations in Tennessee and nationwide, on the basis that they violate their owners' First Amendment right to free speech.
The 44-page ruling not only scuttles the legal basis for regulating commercial billboards on federal interstates in Tennessee; it sets a precedent for overturning billboard laws in every state and puts municipal sign ordinances at risk as well.
Program regulators, sign law attorneys and scenic beauty advocates are still trying to absorb the implications of this action. Tennessee's Attorney General has appealed the ruling. While the state awaits a response, the Beautification Division of Tennessee's Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for regulating outdoor advertising in the state, says it is conducting business as usual.
Check back here for updates. Meanwhile, you may wish to follow the following links to briefs, news coverage and other documents relative to this case, including the court's March 31 ruling in favor of the plaintiff.
Friends of the Court, Viewpoints, Winter 2017
An overview of the issue and possible outcomes
Can One Billboard Owner Threaten Tennessee's Beauty?
By Catherine Landis, Knoxville Mercury, Jan. 11, 2017