Tennessee billboard law struck down on free speech grounds

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – A federal judge struck down a law regulating outdoor advertising in Tennessee, citing it as an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.

The Commercial Appeal reports (http://memne.ws/2nFWLP0 ) that U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla sided with Memphis billboard operator William H. Thomas Jr. and limited government advocates. They said the 1972 law improperly regulated speech based on content.

Supporters of the law argue that billboard restrictions protect property values and traffic safety, beyond aesthetics. William Brinton is an attorney who represented several pro-regulation advocacy groups. He says the ruling, which cited a 2015 Supreme Court case, could have an impact in other states, clearing the way for similar lawsuits.

It was not immediately clear if the state Department of Transportation, which enforces the law, would appeal the ruling.