ON MONDAY, one day after as many as 2m people turned out in Paris to rally for the freedom of speech in the wake of the gruesome slaughter of French journalists, America's Supreme Court gathered to consider what may be another threat to free speech. The case of Reed et al v Town of Gilbert, however, is somewhat less dramatic. At issue is whether signage regulations in the town of Gilbert, Arizona run afoul of the US Constitution’s First Amendment free-speech guarantee. But while the complaint is fairly quotidian, the case proved vexing. Near the end of the hour-long hearing, an exasperated Justice Stephen Breyer asked, "What is this about, this argument?"
The case arose in 2007 as a challenge to Gilbert's rules sharply limiting the use of temporary “directional” signs alongside...Continue reading