Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Linmark Associates, Inc. v. Township of Willingboro case brief

Linmark Associates, Inc. v. Township of Willingboro case brief summary
431 U.S. 85 (1977)

Petitioners, a landowner and its realtor, obtained a writ of certiorari to review a judgment from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that was rendered in favor of respondents, a township and a building inspector, by finding the township's ordinance, which prohibited the placement of signs advertising the sale of real estate in the township, did not violate the First Amendment.

The township enacted an ordinance that prohibited most signs advertising the sale of homes in the township in order to stem white flight and promote racial integration. The landowner and its realtor filed a declaratory judgment action against the township and the building inspector, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. While a district court found the ordinance unconstitutional, the lower court reversed.


  • On certiorari, the Court held that because only those signs that advertised the sale of homes were prohibited, the ordinance proscribed communication based on content rather than based on the time, place, or manner of communication. 
  • Thus, although only one mode of communication was prohibited, the ordinance violated the First Amendment. 
  • Because the ordinance impaired the truthful flow of legitimate commercial information that was of vital interest to homeowners and homebuyers, the ordinance was unconstitutional.

The Court reversed the lower court's judgment because the ordinance was based on the content of the signs, not merely their place or manner, as no other type of sign was prohibited. As such, the ordinance was unconstitutional.

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