RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) filed a lawsuit against the Town of Cary today in the federal district court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, challenging the Town’s assessment of fines against Cary homeowner David Bowden for a political protest sign that he had painted on the front of his house. In July 2009, Mr. Bowden hired someone to paint “Screwed By The Town of Cary” on the front of his house because he was angry about the way he had been treated by the Town regarding damage done to his property during a road-widening project. The Town is now threatening to fine Mr. Bowden hundreds of dollars per day if he does not remove this sign from his house. In its complaint, the ACLU-NCLF alleges that these threats violate Mr. Bowden’s rights to free speech and to petition his government under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and similar provisions of the North Carolina Constitution.
“I tried to negotiate with the Town in a gentlemanly way, and it didn’t get me anywhere,” said Mr. Bowden. “I decided that the only way that I was going to get any attention was to put up a sign. Now the Town is trying to violate my civil rights by telling me that I can’t speak to power.”
The lawsuit asks the Court to declare the Cary sign ordinance unconstitutional and to issue a temporary restraining order and an injunction against the Town, preventing the ordinance from being enforced against Mr. Bowden.
“In order to save itself from embarrassment, the Town is attempting to silence Mr. Bowden from engaging in core political speech directed at the very governmental authorities who are seeking to suppress that speech,” said ACLU-NCLF Cooperating Attorney Mark Sigmon. “Enforcement of the Town’s sign ordinance under these circumstances is a clear violation of the First Amendment.”
Mr. Bowden is represented by Mark Sigmon of Graebe Hanna & Welborn, PLLC, in Raleigh, North Carolina, as Cooperating Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, as well as by Katherine Lewis Parker, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.