Brown v. Town of Cary

Case Status

Current Status: On Appeal
Date Filed: Mar 1st, 2012
Last Action: Jan 22nd, 2013
Court Filed In: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit

Case Summary

This case, formerly Bowden v. Town of Cary, raises the issue of whether Cary’s sign ordinance is unconstitutional. Bowden, a homeowner in Cary, was upset by a road-widening project, which he believed had caused water runoff and other issues at his home. Bowden asked the town to buy his house. When the Town refused, he painted in fluorescent paint “Screwed by the Town on Cary” across the front of his house, in apparent violation of the Town’s sign ordinance. Bowden sued in the Eastern District to enjoin enforcement of the sign on First Amendment grounds. Judge Flanagan granted summary judgment in his favor and ordered the Town to pay attorneys fees; the Town appealed. Bowden has since died and his daughter, Dawn Brown, has been substituted in the proceedings. 

NCICL discusses in the filed Amicus Curiae brief whether the sign ordinance is content based or content neutral. The Town’s sign ordinance exempts several categories of displays from the sign ordinance, including signs for Town sponsored events, art, and holiday decorations. The only way to determine whether Mr. Bowden’s sign is subject to the ordinance or exempt from it, is to view the content of the message. 

Documents Filed

Document Title Date Filed Court Download
US Court of Appeals-Opinion 01/22/2013 US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit PDF 747KB
US Court of Appeals - Judgement 01/22/2013 US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit PDF 44KB
Amicus Curiae Brief 03/01/2012 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit PDF 255KB