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Newspaper delivery cannot be limited by local litter ordinance

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Newspaper delivery cannot be limited by local litter ordinance 11/16/98 ILLINOIS--The state Circuit Court in Pekin ruled that a community…

Newspaper delivery cannot be limited by local litter ordinance

11/16/98

ILLINOIS–The state Circuit Court in Pekin ruled that a community littering ordinance prohibiting the delivery of newspapers violated the Illinois Constitution in early April 1998.

The East Peoria Times-Courier filed suit against the Village of Creve Coeur after it claimed that, in order to prevent personal injury, traffic hazards or “anything else of an unsightly nature,” it could prohibit the throwing or deposit of litter on any public or private property within the village. The definition of litter included unsolicited newspapers, magazines and handbills.

The court, after weighing the First Amendment rights of the newspaper against the right of the community to prevent “detrimental” activity that could adversely affect residents’ lives, enjoined the community from enforcing its rule against the newspaper.

In its decision, the court ruled that the community’s reasoning in enacting the ordinance prohibiting littering was flawed in that, “Tossing a newspaper onto a private yard is different than tossing a discarded hamburger wrapper onto that yard.” The word “discard” would indicate that the newspaper’s delivery persons, when distributing the papers by throwing a single copy into a yard, could not be classified as “discarding” the publication, because, in fact, the newspaper intends for residents to read the publication, not throw it away.

The court also said that if residents or the village community objected to having the papers delivered to their homes they could seek redress through trespass laws, or could contact advertisers of the newspaper and inform the businesses that residents would not use the company’s products as long as the newspaper carrying the advertisements was “thrown” in their yards. The court said the community could not, however, use police powers to “peremptorily ban” the delivery of newspapers to homes. (Community Service Newspapers, Inc. v. Village of Creve Coeur; Media Counsel: Joseph Thornton, Springfield)