Scottsdale v. Arizona – 6/30/2015

July 16, 2015

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that sign walker advertising is a matter of state concern, permitting the state to preempt local laws banning sign walking.

The City of Scottsdale has a city ordinance banning sign walkers (i.e., people wearing, holding, or balancing advertising signs on streets or sidewalks).  After the ordinance had taken effect, the State passed A.R.S. § 9-499.13, which prohibits municipal bans on sign walkers. 

The City filed a declaratory judgment action against the State regarding the validity of the City’s ordinance.  The company Sign King LLC intervened to represent the interests of sign walkers and related entities and individuals.  The superior court held in favor of the State.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the state statute preempted the city ordinance.  The primary dispute involved whether the state statute addressed a subject of statewide concern.  In other words, if bans on sign walkers are a subject of statewide concern rather than strictly local, then the Legislature had the power to preempt conflicting municipal ordinances.  (The remaining elements of preemption analysis were not in dispute.)

The Court held that criminalizing public activity on publicly owned sidewalks affects everyone who uses the sidewalks, including nonresidents.  It analogized to cases invalidating local laws against public drunkenness and indecent exposure, both of which conflicted with state statutes.  Consequently, the Court held that the state statute preempted the city ordinance.

Judge Cattani authored the opinion.  Judges Norris and Orozco joined.