Temporary Victory Achieved in the Goldwater Institute’s Free Speech Lawsuit Against Phoenix

The Goldwater Institute (GI) announced Wednesday that its lawsuit against the City of Phoenix has resulted in a judge barring it from enforcing its “Clean Zone” law, at least for the next week.

“Phoenix residents and business owners shouldn’t have to beg the NFL for permission to freely communicate with the public on their own property. Yesterday’s temporary injunction ensures they don’t have to — and we hope that city leaders will do the right thing and repeal this unconstitutional mandate at next week’s City Council meeting,” said GI Staff Attorney John Thorpe in a statement emailed to The Arizona Sun Times.

In Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Bard Astrowsky’s order, shared with The Sun Times, he instructed the city not to enforce Phoenix City Council Resolution 22073 until January 26th, after the City Council has a chance to meet.

Resolution 22073 is the primary reason for this lawsuit. It created downtown Phoenix’s “Special Promotional and Civic Event Area,” known as the clean zone. With the state set to host the Super Bowl in February, anyone in the clean zone would need approval from the National Football League (NFL) and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee (ASBHC) to display “temporary signage” in the area through February 19th. This was done to protect the NFL’s sponsors.

However, the GI claims that this negatively impacted a Phoenician business owner, Bramley Paulin. He attempted to strike a business deal with Coca-Cola to advertise on his property. However, his property lies within the clean zone, and the company turned his offer down, expressing concern that they would receive a cease and desist for advertising in the area.

The GI argued that Phoenix was causing Paulin and anyone else in a similar situation “irreparable harm.” Moreover, the Plaintiffs also argued that “temporary signage” is a form of free speech, so the city’s blanket restraint on certain signs violates first amendment rights. Additionally, the city was violating the Arizona Constitution by giving a private entity, the NFL, power over the free speech of Arizonans

In response to Astrowsky’s order, a spokesperson for Phoenix told The Sun Times the city plans to alter Resolution 22073.

“The proposed change would remove the NFL and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee from involvement in temporary signage or other city-issued permits within the Special Promotional and Civic Event Area,” the spokesperson said via email. “This item is on the agenda for the next scheduled Phoenix City Council meeting on Wednesday Jan 25.”

According to the GI, if the city does not make this change, the judge can review the case and permanently block Resolution 22073 from being enforced at the next court appearance.

Nonetheless, Thorpe said removing the NFL from the equation is the correct move by the city to align itself with the constitution better.

“Of course, we expect the city to enforce the sign ordinance – and any other applicable law – in a manner that’s fair, content-neutral, and consistent with the Constitution,” Thorpe told The Sun Times.

However, Phoenix is not the only city with a clean zone. Glendale also set up similar guidelines in a one-mile radius surrounding the State Farm Stadium.

Thorpe said if Glendale’s clean zone negatively impacts anyone, they should contact the Goldwater Institute.

“We have serious constitutional concerns about speech restrictions in these ‘clean zones,’ generally speaking. We took action in Phoenix after a local business owner affected by the mandate asked for our assistance. Were a resident or business owner similarly affected by Glendale’s ‘clean zone’ to reach out to us, we’d certainly evaluate their case,” Thorpe told The Sun Times.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Phoenix Skyline” by Al_HikesAZ. CC BY-NC 2.0.



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