Justice institute could join sign walker dispute - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Justice institute could join sign walker dispute

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2008 12:18 am | Updated: 9:12 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A national libertarian law firm is considering taking a case to challenge Scottsdale's ban on commercial sign walkers from city sidewalks.

The Institute for Justice, which represented Bailey's Brake Shop in its victory over Mesa eminent domain, may assist Jim Torgeson in his appeal of a Scottsdale citation issued last year for violating the city's decades-old ban on the sign walkers.

"We are considering getting involved on his behalf, but we have not made a final decision," said Tim Keller, executive director of the institute's Arizona chapter, which takes cases involving what it sees as government intrusions on private property rights and freedom of speech.

Keller said if the institute becomes involved, it could be to handle Torgeson's appeal of his Scottsdale citation, represent him in Gilbert where he is being charged with using a sign walker to promote a convenience store, or filing a separate civil action.

Keller said a decision will be made shortly.

Torgeson is a Chandler resident and owner of Jet Media Promotions, which employs sign walkers around the Valley to advertise car dealers, furniture stores and other businesses from public rights-of-way.

"It's an intolerance and nonunderstanding of the needs of small, independent businesses," Torgeson said of the Scottsdale and Gilbert bans.

Torgeson was cited by Scottsdale in January 2007 during the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction while holding a sign advertising a car dealer. He was found guilty by Scottsdale City Court, and last month the Maricopa County Superior Court upheld the city court verdict that Torgeson violated the city code. Torgeson said he would be ecstatic if the institute took his case, but he is prepared to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scottsdale spokesman Pat Dodds said the city was pleased with the recent ruling.

Scottsdale has argued banning commercial sign walkers in the public rights-of-way is not limiting political free speech. The city has said the ban promotes safety and reduces visual blight.

In Gilbert last month, Torgeson and others held 6-foot-tall "Jesus Loves You" signs to test Gilbert's ban. No citations were issued.

Meanwhile, identical Arizona Senate and House bills would overturn city bans on sign walkers. Both have been passed by Senate and House committees, but have not reached final votes.

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