Sometimes neighbors do annoying things. Like one person in California who went to extremes with her holiday light display, much to the disgruntlement of her neighbors. (In case you’re wondering, after spending a particularly horrid holiday season with the creepy green light of a 6-foot Grinch filtering through my window at night, my sympathies are firmly with the lesser adorned houses.) But when it comes down to it, neighbors can do whatever they want to their houses, even if you’re the one stuck looking at it. Well, that’s the case unless a house’s adornment breaks the law. Then that’s a house of a different color.
The saga of David Bowden and the Town of Cary, NC dates back to 2008. Bowden blamed a town construction project for water damage to his former residence, and took a course of action that many an annoyed citizen may dream of, but few would actually execute. He took some bright orange paint and painted a sign on his house—“Screwed By The Town of Cary.” The Town threatened Bowden with fines because the sign violated the rules for the size of signage. Bowden partnered up with the ACLU and filed suit to protect his First Amendment rights.
A circuit judge found in favor of Bowden in 2010. However, the Town appealed the decision. In 2011, Bowden passed away, but his heirs opted to continue the lawsuit. This week, the Fourth Circuit considered town rules for “public art” and “holiday displays” and ultimately decided to overturn the lower court decision and find in favor of the Town. No word yet on whether or not Bowden’s estate will continue to appeal. Even if the story ends here, I think some country-music songwriter needs to jump on this because if this story isn’t the makings for some dramatic ballad, I don’t know what is.Tags: First Amendment, Lawsuit, Neighbors, Sign