GEFT Outdoors, LLC v. Westfield, No. 18-3236 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
GEFT began building a digital billboard on its Westfield, Indiana property without the requisite city sign permit. The ordinance prohibits “off-premise signs” directing attention to a specific business, product, service, entertainment, or any other activity offered, sold, or conducted elsewhere and prohibits “pole signs” that are not attached to or supported by any building. GEFT did obtain a state permit but believed Westfield’s sign standards ordinance contained unconstitutional content‐based speech restrictions. GEFT stopped installing the billboard when a contract attorney working for Westfield threatened to arrest GEFT’s representatives. The district court denied GEFT’s motion for an injunction and granted Westfield’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. GEFT had challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance under the First Amendment, but its preliminary injunction motion focused solely on its due process claim. There is no constitutional procedural due process right to state‐mandated procedures; the fact that the Stop Work Notices did not comply with ordinance procedures cannot support a procedural due process claim. Neither local nor state law authorizes the arrest of anyone violating a municipal ordinance; even if the attorney is considered an employee of Westfield, GEFT has no evidence Westfield authorized those threats or could have predicted he would make them. Although the threats of arrest were inappropriate, they “are a far cry from the type of conduct recognized as conscience‐shocking” for purposes of a substantive due process claim.