San Juan County sends free speech case on political signs to federal court

  • Tue Jun 5th, 2018 4:16pm
  • News

Submitted by San Juan County

A commentary on political signs and a recent court ruling has led to new claims in a lawsuit filed by local attorney Nick Power as plaintiff. The lawsuit names the county and San Juan County Auditor Milene Henley as defendants. On Monday, June 4, the county staff moved the case to federal court in Seattle.

“This case started as one about political signs, but that part is over. It’s now about the right of elected officials to express their opinion,” said San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randall Gaylord. “The case is being removed to federal court because those courts have traditionally been the forum for resolving questions regarding the right to speak out by any citizen including elected officials.”

In the claim over the 45-day time for political signs, the superior court was informed that the time limits have never been enforced. At a hearing on June 1, the county prosecutor proposed and the court entered an order confirming that the county will not enforce the land use rules regarding political signs. That order will remain in effect for the duration of the federal case.

Gaylord added that the county council should be able to make any necessary corrections to the county ordinance and thereby clean up the books. On May 25, the county council had a “first touch” and announced its desire to amend the ordinance, which is part of the land use code, using its usual procedure. The council will further consider a proposed ordinance amending SJCC 18.40.400(C) with a “second touch” on June 12.