U.S. District Court, Northern Division of Georgia Concludes Outdoor Advertising Company Did Not Have Standing to Challenge Lawrenceville Sign Ordinance

The United States District Court, Northern Division of Georgia granted a motion to dismiss in favor of the City of Lawrenceville, Georgia on Covenant Media of Georgia, LLC’s constitutional challenge to the city’s outdoor sign ordinance.

The Court concluded that Covenant Media could not establish redressibility because even if it won its constitutional challenge to the sign ordinance Covenant Media still could not build its proposed signs. 

The Court also concluded that Covenant Media’s alleged injury – the fact that it could not build its proposed signs – was not a result of any of the alleged unconstitutional actions of the City, but instead due to application of various height, size, location, and certification provisions of the sign ordinance that was not being challenged. 

Because Covenant Media could not establish redressibility and a casual relationship between its injury and the challenged actions of the City, the Court held Covenant Media did not possess standing to file the lawsuit and dismissed it.

Keep ready for GZB’s summary of Covenant Media of Georgia, LLC v. City of Lawrenceville, Georgia, — F. Supp. 2d. —, 2008 WL 4462422, Civil Action No. 1:07-CV-2522-JEC, decided September 18, 2008.

The City of Lawrenceville’s outdoor sign ordinance creates a comprehensive scheme for regulating the permitting, placement, and operation of signs within the City.  The ordinance prohibits animated and flashing signs.  The ordinance does allow other signs, but only within specified zoning districts and subject to height, size, and setback requirements.  The ordinance also requires that every sign meet the Gwinnett County Airport Authority’s safety requirements.

Covenant Media of Georgia, LLC filed nine sign applications with the City.  Each application was denied by the City for failing to comply with the sign ordinance in one way or the other.  Either the proposed sign would not be located in appropriate zoning districts, was twice the maximum allowable height or size, or did not comply with the airport safety requirements.

After an unsuccessful appeal to the City Board of Zoning Appeals, Covenant Media sued the City alleging that its sign ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution because the ordinance: (1) allowed City officials unfettered discretion to grant or deny sign permits and unlimited time to rule upon sign applications; and (2) imposed an unconstitutionally prohibitive fee structure.

The City filed a motion to dismiss asserting that Covenant Media did not have standing to file the lawsuit.

To establish standing to assert a claim within the subject matter jurisdiction of federal courts a plaintiff must allege an actual injury caused by challenged conduct and that can be corrected by a favorable court decision.  The Court held that Covenant Media could not establish that its injury – not being able to build its proposed signs – was caused by the unconstitutional discretion of the City over sign applications or the fees imposed.  The Court also held that Covenant Media could not establish that its injury would be corrected by winning its lawsuit.

The City’s denial of Covenant Media’s sign applications were not in any way related to the City’ challenged discretionary decision making or fees.  Instead, the denials were based upon the sign ordinance itself – its height, size, location, and other requirements.  Because the reason for the denials had nothing to do with the Covenant Media’s claims there was no causal relationship between the challenged actions of the City and Covenant Media’s injury.  Additionally, Covenant Media could not build its proposed signs even if it won the lawsuit.  Even if Covenant Media could prove that the City had unconsitutional discretion over sign applications or charged unconstitutional fees, Covenant Media’s proposed signs would still be too tall, too big, and in the wrong zoning districts.  Covenant Media’s sign applications would still violate the sign ordinance.

The Court granted the City’s motion to dismiss because Covenant Media lacked standing.

Covenant Media of Georgia, LLC v. City of Lawrenceville, Georgia, — F. Supp. 2d. —, 2008 WL 4462422, Civil Action No. 1:07-CV-2522-JEC, decided September 18, 2008.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Dana Maine on October 22, 2008 at 8:29 am

    FYI – Plaintiff has appealed this case to the Eleventh Circuit.

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