Case Overview

Legal Principle at Issue

Whether the government may constitutionally prohibit homeowners from displaying virtually all signs on their property.


Affirmed (includes modified). Petitioning party did not receive a favorable disposition.


An ordinance in Ladue, Missouri, prohibited homeowners from displaying all signs on their property except residence identification signs, "for sale" signs, and signs warning of safety hazards. A homeowner displayed a letter-sized sign stating "For Peace in the Gulf" and challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance. The district and appellate courts held that the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

While governments may regulate the physical characteristics of signs, they may not allow some signs and ban others based upon their content. Nor may governments ban all signs and foreclose an important form of communication. Metromedia v. San Diego, 453 U.S. 490 (1981).

Importance of Case

The Court refused to accept the aesthetic justifications for the ordinance offered by Ladue and reaffirmed an individual's right to speak freely in his home. The Court held that although the government may regulate the physical characteristics of signs, the First Amendment prohibits content-based regulation. Ladue's ordinance was simply too broad and it effectively eliminated one avenue of speech.

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