ADAMS OUTDOOR ADVERTISING LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, a Limited Partnership Organized Under the Laws of the State of Minnesota, by its Managing General Partner, Adams Outdoor GP, LLC, Appellant
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; LESLIE RICHARDS, Individually and in her capacity as Secretary of Transportation, Acting as the Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
March 5, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil Action No.
5-17-cv-01253) District Judge: Honorable Joseph F. Leeson
F. Cavacini (Argued) Gross McGinley Counsel for Appellant
Shapiro Attorney General Claudia M. Tesoro (Argued) Senior
Deputy Attorney General J. Bart DeLone Chief Deputy Attorney
General Office of Attorney General Counsel for Appellee
Before: SMITH, Chief Judge, AMBRO, and RESTREPO, Circuit
Outdoor Advertising, L.P., wants to install a billboard near
an interchange on U.S. Route 22 in Hanover Township,
Pennsylvania. Adams sought a permit from the Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation ("PennDOT"), but it
denied the permit under a provision of Pennsylvania law that
prohibits "off premise" billboards within 500 feet
of a highway interchange. Adams contends that
provision-called the "Interchange
Prohibition"-violates the First Amendment because it is
too vague or, alternatively, because it does not survive
First Amendment scrutiny. Adams also claims that
PennDOT's permitting requirement for highway billboards
separately violates the First Amendment because there is no
time limit for its decisions on applications.
District Court ruled in Adams' favor on the time-limit
claim and entered an injunction barring the enforcement of
the permit requirement until PennDOT establishes reasonable
time limits on its permit decisions. It dismissed, however,
Adams' vagueness challenge on the pleadings and entered
summary judgment against Adams on its First Amendment
affirm in part and reverse in part. As to the former, we join
the District Court in concluding that PennDOT's permit
requirement violates the First Amendment because it lacks a
reasonable time limit for permit determinations, and thus
sustain the injunction. Further, we affirm the Court's
dismissal of Adams' vagueness challenge because the
Interchange Prohibition communicates clearly what it
prohibits. But we cannot sustain its entry of summary
judgment in favor of PennDOT Secretary Richards on Adams'
challenge to the scrutiny required to assess the Interchange
Prohibition. Although we conclude the Prohibition is not
subject to strict scrutiny, the record is insufficient to
establish the required reasoning for the prohibition. We thus
reverse on that claim and remand for further proceedings.
Highway Beautification Act of 1965, 23 U.S.C. § 131,
establishes a framework for federal-state agreements
governing the size, lighting, and spacing of outdoor
advertising signs (colloquially, "billboards") near
highways. States that do not enter into and comply with their
federal-state agreements under the Beautification Act lose
certain funds for highway programs. See 23 U.S.C.
meets its obligations under the Beautification Act through
the Pennsylvania Outdoor Advertising Control Act of 1971, 36
Pa. Stat. §§ 2718.101- .115. PennDOT administers
the Act through its Secretary, defendant-appellee Leslie
Richards. 36 Pa. Stat. § 2718.106.
aspects of the Act are relevant in this appeal. First, its
Interchange Prohibition bars the installation of any
billboard within 500 feet of an "interchange" or
"safety rest area" unless the billboard is an
"official" or "on premise" sign as
defined in 23 U.S.C. § 131(c). See 36 Pa. Stat.
§ 2718.105(c)(2)(i), (iv). Second, the Act sets up a
permitting regime requiring persons to obtain permits from
either PennDOT or a PennDOT-authorized entity to install
billboards regulated by the former. See 36 Pa. Stat.
§ 2718.107. The Act does not establish a time limit to
decide permit applications.
Facts and Procedural History
is a company that acquires or leases private land to install
and maintain outdoor advertising signs as a medium of
communication by the public. It receives the customer's
desired message, secures permits, and installs the message on
a sign. All the signs Adams installs are "off
premise" signs- that is, they communicate a message
concerning neither the specific property where the sign is
displayed nor the business or activities that occur there. An
example of an "off premise" sign would be one
advertising a law firm, ...