Caruso fights for constitution against Florida town and wins
When the Village of North Palm Beach tried to enforce an unconstitutional law against Republican Mike Caruso, Caruso fought back and won.
State Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach, was told his campaign and supporters couldn’t put political signs up more than thirty days before an election.
The Caruso campaign objected to the Ordinance being applied to homeowners on stand-alone private property posting political signs in their yard.
This dispute has nothing to do with anyone who’s signed a Home Owners Association agreement. If a homeowner has signed an HOA agreement with specific rules covering political signs, they’ve voluntarily given up their political sign rights.
Following is the original email received by Caruso from Lillian Haughton, the Code Compliance Officer for the Village of North Palm Beach.
Good morning Mr. Caruso,
Per our Code of Ordinance Sec. 6-114 (f) Permitted temporary signs.
Political signs may not be displayed more than thirty (30) days prior to the event. For your information, I have attached the link for the full description of the Ordinance.
The Village is respectfully requesting that all signs be removed by Thursday June 2nd 2022.
Your cooperation is appreciated.
Code Compliance Officer
Village of North Palm Beach.
PBCJolt reported on this initially in: Florida town tries to enforce unconstitutional Ordinance, Rep. Caruso fights back
Something sounded fishy to Caruso, who did a quick Google search and realized the Ordinance was unconstitutional.
Caruso vowed to take action and right this wrong.
On Monday, the law firm of Reed Smith out of Miami sent a letter to Village attorney Leonard G. Rubin documenting the unconstitutionality of the Village ordinance.
Because the limitations imposed by Sec. 6-114 are manifestly content-based and have no justification, they are in violation of the First Amendment and cannot be applied to Rep. Caruso’s supporters without violating the United States Constitution. Consequently, your client must cease and desist from seeking to enforce Sec. 6-114 against Rep. Caruso’s supporters, and, specifically, from fining any of Rep. Caruso’s supporters for violating the terms of said Sec. 6-114. Should your client insist on seeking to enforce Sec. 6-114 against Rep. Caruso’s supporters, we will be forced to pursue other legal action.
The letter ends with the usual, “Please govern yourselves accordingly,” which is attorney talk, for if you don’t fix this, we’ll throw some hands in court, and you’ll lose.
The Reed Smith letter:
Rubin responded in an email saying, “The vilage has already opted not to enforce the provisions of its sign code quoted in your letter as they pertain to Mr. Caruso’s signs”
Rubin’s email to Redd Smith with contact info redacted:
Caruso won a significant victory for free speech and the constitution, but candidates must be vigilant.
Notice Rubin’s email does not say the Village of North Palm Beach will look into removing an unconstitutional law from their books. Rubin only commits to non-enforcement of their unconstitutional law against the Caruso campaign. Nor does he promise not to use the Ordinance against other political candidates.
Caruso’s willingness to confront an unconstitutional law is admirable, and more candidates must follow his example.
While in this case, there’s no evidence of selective enforcement, selective enforcement of constitutional and unconstitutional laws happens in every election cycle.
I ran large sign crews for the Republican Party for many years. Often we were discriminated against in cities dominated by Democrats.
One time I had to go to a city with an attorney, who often volunteered for the ACLU, and tell everyone to knock it off, or they would all be named defendants in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Running for political office is like going into a boxing ring. The referee’s instructions include, “defend yourself at all times.”
Candidates, defend yourself at all times because when you do, you not only help your campaign, you protect all of us from the petty tyranny of bureaucratic excess.
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