Dan King
Dan King · April 10, 2024

ALLENTOWN, Pa.—Today, a retired teacher sued the borough of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, over its local ordinance that criminalizes putting “for sale” signs in the windows of vehicles that are legally parked on a public street. Will Cramer has teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a lawsuit arguing the ban violates the First Amendment rights of Nazareth residents who hope to advertise a car for sale. 

“People have put for-sale signs in car windows for as long as cars have been around, and there is no legitimate reason for the government to ban doing so,” said IJ Litigation Fellow Bobbi Taylor, one of the attorneys representing Will. “Americans have a First Amendment right to truthfully advertise things they are selling, and that includes putting a for-sale sign in their car window.” 

Will is a retired teacher, marathon runner, and author of a series of children’s books. He does these activities to educate and inspire others. Last year, he retired as a high school biology teacher in New Jersey to go on a year-long journey teaching English in the Philippines. When he was preparing for the move, Will decided to put his 2009 Buick LaCrosse and 1987 Chevy Deluxe up for sale. After striking out with social media posts about the Chevy, Will placed a “for sale” sign in the truck’s window. Like many in Nazareth, Will does not have a driveway, so the truck was legally parked on the street.  

One day, in October 2023, Will noticed a parking ticket on the truck. While the ticket made clear that parking on the street was legal, it explained that parking a vehicle on the street “for the purposes” of selling it, is not. If the “for sale” sign was advertising that Will’s home was for sale, that would be legal. But because the sign was advertising the car being for sale, Will faced a criminal charge and a fine. Will removed the sign in accordance with the law, and thankfully a prospective buyer had already seen the sign and reached out to Will about purchasing the truck. But rather than pay the fine, Will went before the local magistrate to argue the ordinance violated the First Amendment. He was hoping to be able to sell his Buick the same way before he left. 

“It made no sense to me that I could park my truck on the street legally, but as soon as I put a for-sale sign in the window, it became illegal,” said Will. “This lawsuit is bigger than me, it’s about standing up for the free speech rights of everybody in Nazareth.” 

The magisterial judge dismissed Will’s claims and found him guilty, which is why Will is now fighting back with a constitutional lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 

“Commercial speech is vitally important, and the government can’t ban a car sign saying ‘For Sale’ any more than it can ban other messages like ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ or ‘Vote Smith,’” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “In America, the government doesn’t get to pick what speakers say or what listeners hear, and defending that principle is the heart of Will’s free-speech lawsuit.” 

For Will, this case is about more than just his ‘for sale’ sign; it’s about vindicating the rights of others to engage in commercial speech. Americans routinely engage in commercial speech when they compare prices on the internet or at the store, or when they look at a billboard or other form of advertisement.