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AD WORLD, INC. v. TOWNSHIP OF DOYLESTOWN
March 25, 1981
AD WORLD, INC.
TOWNSHIP OF DOYLESTOWN
The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINER
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This is an action challenging the constitutionality of an ordinance which makes it unlawful to distribute advertising material by certain means to residences without the consent of their owners or occupiers. At issue are the competing values behind the right of the people to freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the obligation of the state to protect the public's health, safety, and welfare through use of the police power. For the reasons to follow, we conclude that the challenged ordinance is constitutionally valid. The plaintiff's claims for damages and injunctive relief are therefore denied, and judgment is entered in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff.
Ad World, Inc. (Ad World) is the publisher of the "Piggy-Back", a sixteen page advertising bulletin which includes a few pages of consumer and community information. This publication is distributed weekly to 129,001 residences in central and lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania, including 3,000 in the Township of Doylestown. Ad World distributes each bulletin in a plastic bag, which is placed at the residence by a carrier who attaches it to a mail box hook or leaves it on a porch, sidewalk, lawn or some other location on the premises. All costs are paid by the bulletin's advertisers, and there is no charge to its recipients.
The Board of Supervisors of the Township of Doylestown (Doylestown) has enacted Ordinance No. 117, which provides as follows:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF DOYLESTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, REGULATING THE DISTRIBUTION OF ADVERTISING MATERIALS AT RESIDENCES WITHIN THE TOWNSHIP.
WHEREAS, certain persons, firms or corporations have recently begun the distribution of advertising materials to Doylestown Township residents by placing or hanging the advertising material on mail boxes or posts or by depositing the said material upon other portions of private property without the request or consent of the owners or occupiers of the property, and
WHEREAS, in the judgment of the Board of Supervisors this manner of distribution of advertising materials is unsightly, constitutes an invasion of privacy and unless picked up by the property owner within a reasonable time, the presence of such advertising material would be a clear indication that the residence was unoccupied and thus increase the possibility of vandalism and/or burglary.
BE IT ORDAINED, by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania and it is hereby Ordained and Enacted by authority of same:
2. That any violation of this Ordinance shall be considered a summary offense and upon conviction before a district justice, the violator shall be subject to a fine not exceeding $ 300.00. Each unlawful distribution to a residence shall be considered as a separate offense.
3. That this ordinance shall be added to the Code of Ordinances of the Township of Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and shall be effective five (5) days after its legal enactment.
Plaintiff asserts that as a result of the enactment of the ordinance, it is prohibited from distributing its publication, and that if it continues to distribute its publication, it will be cited for violation of the ordinance, ...
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