Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge rules St. Petersburg sign ordinance unconstitutional

The case started when St. Petersburg neurosurgeon Dr. David McKalip got a citation for a scrolling message on his sign.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

The case started when St. Petersburg neurosurgeon Dr. David McKalip got a citation for a scrolling message on his sign.

LARGO — A judge struck down a portion of St. Petersburg's sign ordinance Thursday, saying the law is unconstitutional in how it regulates electronic scrolling messages.

The sign ordinance says that for public safety reasons, a message must stay on an electronic sign for at least 60 seconds. Yet it allows some venues, such as large arenas or theaters, to change messages as frequently as every 10 seconds. The most prominent example is the electronic billboard next to Tropicana Field, visible from the nearby interstate.

Pinellas County Judge Patrick Caddell said the city provided no data to explain the public safety rationale of the law, or justification for its "double standard." He agreed with St. Petersburg city attorneys' contention that judges should stay out of legislative matters whenever possible, but also said it was clear the sign ordinance violated the "equal protection" clause of the U.S. Constitution.

That provision says states must not "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" and is part of the 14th Amendment.

"The fact that you have a dual standard is, I believe, a fundamental equal protection issue that has to be addressed by the courts," Caddell said. "And there's no rationale whatsoever for having a restriction apply to a select, small group versus the rest of the world."

Caddell added, "The bottom line is, one standard for all. Unless there's an overriding public purpose in having that dual standard. That's a high hill to climb."

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, reached Thursday afternoon, said he needed to hear from the city's legal team before giving any response.

The case started when Dr. David McKalip, a St. Petersburg neurosurgeon, got a $143 citation for the scrolling message on the sign in front of his office at 401 Southwest Blvd. N. The sign displayed various antitax messages, and also an excerpt from the Florida Constitution: "No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech."

He hired attorney George Rahdert, who also represents the Tampa Bay Times on First Amendment issues, and filed a motion to dismiss the case.

After the ruling, McKalip asked if he could speak and thanked Caddell "for recognizing the natural-born rights I have of free speech."

Caddell, known around the court system for his quick and sometimes acerbic wit, replied: "It's what I do for a living. Don't think you're anything special."

McKalip said after the hearing that he appreciated the judge's ruling, and he hoped it sent a strong message to the city not to infringe on free speech rights.

Judge rules St. Petersburg sign ordinance unconstitutional 03/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 8:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hulk Hogan talks Tampa Bay, depression and politics on Fox News' 'Objectified'

    Blogs

    For better or worse, Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea is our guy.

    Hulk Hogan shows Harvey Levin his wrestling boots on Fox News' "Objectified."
  2. Pumpkin pileup: Fiery crash causes mess, closes portion of I-75 in Pasco

    Accidents

    Drivers on Interstate 75 in Pasco County should expect continued delays on Friday as road crews work to clean up a mess of debris — and pumpkins — left behind after a fiery semitrailer truck crash in the early morning hours.

    Road crews clean up a mess of crash debris - and pumpkins - left behind after a fiery semitrailer truck crash on Interstate 75 in Pasco County on Sept. 22, 2017. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Key matchups in Bucs-Vikings game

    Blogs

    In our latest Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast, Greg Auman breaks down five key matchups that will help decide Sunday's Bucs game against the Minnesota Vikings.

    Defensive lineman Chris Baker is a question mark heading into Sunday's game against the Vikings.
  4. Rick and Tom podcast: Will Bucs go 2-0? Are Gators on upset alert?

    Blogs

    It's football friday as Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the Bucs' game in Minnesota, including the improved offensive line.

    Ali Marpet moved from guard to center on an improved Bucs offensive line.
  5. In this Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, photo distributed on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a statement in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's speech to the United Nations, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim, in an extraordinary and direct rebuke, called Trump "deranged" and said he will "pay dearly" for his threats, a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. [Associated Press]