Redmond, WA Free Speech

Dennis Ballen, et al., v. The City of Redmond, et al.
IJ Defends Blazing Bagels from Redmond, Washington’s Portable Sign Ban

IJ client Dennis Ballen

On September 15, 2006, the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter (IJ-WA) won an important free speech victory when the 9th Cir. U.S. Court of Appeals held that a City of Redmond, Wash., ordinance banning Blazing Bagels store owner Dennis Ballen’s signs was unconstitutional. The Court held that the ordinance, which banned certain kinds of portable signs but allowed real estate signs, unconstitutionally discriminated against some signs based on their content.

The Institute for Justice’s Washington Chapter filed the challenge on Ballen’s behalf after the City cited him for having an employee wear a sandwich-board sign for a few hours each day advertising “Fresh Bagels.” The City claimed that signs like Ballen’s are ugly and hazardous, but the 9th Cir. saw through this rhetoric. “[U]biquitous real estate signs, which can turn an inviting sidewalk into an obstacle course challenging even the most dextrous hurdler, are an even greater threat to vehicular and pedestrian safety and community aesthetics than the presence of a single employee holding an innocuous sign that reads: ‘Fresh Bagels – Now Open.’ . . . The City has protected outdoor signage displayed by the powerful real estate industry from an Ordinance that unfairly restricts the First Amendment rights of, among others, a lone bagel shop owner.”

The 9th Cir. victory follows IJ Washington’s victory in trial court, which the City appealed. The case is part of the Institute’s effort to reinvigorate protections in the state and federal constitutionals for the free flow of commercial information indispensable to our free enterprise economy.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: Vindicating Free Speech:  City of Redmond Sign Ordinance Punches Hole in Bagel Entrepreneur’s First Amendment Rights

Client Photo

Client Video (KOMOTV)


Latest Release: Bagel Entrepreneur & IJ Punch a Hole in City of Redmond’s Sign Ban With 9th Circuit First Amendment Victory (September 15, 2006)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Downoad: Victory Opinion in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Launch Release: City of Redmond Sign Ordinance Punches Hole in Bagel Entrepreneur’s First Amendment Rights (July 22, 2003)

Download Order granting plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit: 


July 22, 2003

Court Filed:


King County Superior Court (case moved to federal court by Defendants)



June 15, 2004, federal trial court rules that Redmond’s ban on certain portable signs is unconstitutional



January 21, 2004, Federal trial court granted preliminary injunction enjoining ordinance as likely unconstitutional

Current Court:


U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals



June 13, 2004, City of Redmond appeals trial court loss to U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Next Key Date:



Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: IJ and Bagel Entrepreneur Blaze Trail to 9th Circuit To Defend Commercial Speech (June 1, 2006)

none available

Release: City of Redmond Wastes More Taxpayers’ Money By Appealing Unconstitutional Sign Ban (July 16, 2004)


Release: Bagel Entrepreneur & IJ Punch a Hole in City of Redmond’s Sign Ban With First Amendment Victory (June 15, 2004)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Bagel Entrepreneur Blazes to Victory, Liberty & Law (December 2006)

Release: Bagel Entrepreneur & IJ Win Injunction Against the City of Redmond In First Amendment Case (January 22, 2004)

Article: Watch and Listen to IJ Defend Free Speech In Washington Courtrooms, Liberty & Law (August 2006)

Article: Free Speech: Seeing Double in Washington State With Two Free Speech Cases, Liberty & Law (June 2006)

Article: IJ’s Blazing First Amendment Victory Liberty & Law (August 2004)

Article: Blowing a Hole in the First AmendmentLiberty & Law (October 2003)

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