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Town Violated Utility's First Amendment Rights, Judge Says

A Long Island town violated the First Amendment with an ordinance compelling a utility to post warning signs about the chemicals applied to poles.

Eastern District Judge Arthur Spatt said the Town of North Hempstead engaged in an "impermissible regulation of noncommercial speech" and said the town had other, less restrictive ways to spread the word about the chemical that did not infringe on PSEG Long Island's right against forced speech.

Though Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth did release information to the public at certain stages in the dispute over the poles, Spatt said the town did not adequately explain why "it chose to forego these alternatives in favor of a law that not only compels the plaintiffs to carry the town's specific message as if it were their own, but also to bear the associated costs of doing so."

Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin said the municipality would not appeal PSEG Long Island v. Town of North Hempstead, 15-cv-0222.

Steven Russo, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, and William Hurst, of counsel, represented PSEG Long Island.

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