Felony Franks Sues City Over Misdemeanor Message

One would hardly relish the position of Jim Andrews, owner of Felony Franks on the Near West Side of Chicago. Andrews is suing after city officials refused to allow him to hang his sign as offensive. He has named not just the city by 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd) for what he claims is a denial of his free speech. He may have a point.

Fioretti admits that he finds the sign offensive. The restaurant hired ex-cons to give them a second chance.

He is asking for not just the right to hang the sign but $293,000 in damages. While there an ordinance pending in city council to nix all signs hanging over the street on Western, it would appear that the denial here may be content-based. This would certainly lead to a legitimate question of a denial of free speech.

We have seen prior free speech claims raised over signs and even the words of the first amendment.

Andrews cuts through the historical and legal pretenses and sums it up as “I think I’m being screwed.” He may be right.

Historically, aesthetic nuisances are weak claims that are rejected by the courts. If the city were to ban signs on the street, it could make for some interesting questions in court. It could explore whether the ordinance is targeting Felony Franks. More importantly, it will have to answer why these businesses are denied the right to hang signs as opposed to other businesses. There is also the takings aspect of failing to compensate owners for a limitation on their property.

When I grew up in Chicago, the city was divided not only between the Cubs and the White Sox, but between those who went to Fluky’s and Wolfy’s for their dogs. There was also Gold Coast Dog which was pretty good for folks near the loop. Northsiders (like me) are Cubs fans and eat at Wolfy’s. I used to go there with my late father who loved a good Chicago dawg.

Before you say the Constitution is going to the dogs in such cases, Felony Franks could make for an important ruling on the scope of free speech protections in such things as signage. While commercial speech has been given less protection than noncommercial speech, it is still protected. The Supreme Court noted in Edenfield v. Fane:

“The commercial market place, like other spheres of our social and cultural life, provides a forum where ideas and information flourish. Some of the ideas and information are vital, some of slight worth. But the general rule is that the speaker and the audience, not the government, assess the value of the information presented. Thus, even a communication that does no more than propose a commercial transaction is entitled to the coverage of the First Amendment.”

The proper use of time, place, and manner limitations is a constant concern of the courts. In 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on outdoor advertising in Metromedia, Inc. v. City of San Diego. The ordinance allowed for 12 specified categories, but the Court found that the ordinance allowed officials to limit non-commerical speech. The plurality stated, however, the government could ban non-commercial speech in some circumstances. The problem was the sweep of the ordinance since “[b]illboards are a well-established medium of communication, used to convey a broad range of different kinds of messages.” It has to be done carefully, however: “With respect to noncommercial speech, the city may not choose the appropriate subjects for public discourse,. Because the San Diego ordinance reaches too far into the realm of protected speech, we conclude that it is unconstitutional.”

Under Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission Of New York, the government must justify restrictions on truthful, nonmisleading commercial speech by showing the limitations or prohibitions “directly advance” a substantial state interest and are no more extensive than necessary to serve that interest. Felony Frank could argue that the denial does not satisfy the so-called Central Hudson Test even if the ban is passed.

This is clearly commercial speech, though with the hiring of ex-cons it has some non-commerical value. Such plurality decisions as Metromedia do not answer the question fully and this Supreme Court is now more agreeable to business claims, including some justices like Sotomayor and Breyer on the left of the Court.

We will closely follow the progress of the Felony Frank case.

Source: Chicago Journal

Jonathan Turley

84 thoughts on “Felony Franks Sues City Over Misdemeanor Message”

  1. “yes…it is a Christian translation of Hebrew so it should be suspect”


    Beware of some christian translations from the Hebrew. Beware even of some Jewish translations of the Torah. At Seders I’ve been at I’ve seen Rabbinic students, disagreeing with other Rabbinic students on the meaning of particular Hebrew words, as we go through the ritual of the retelling of Exodus.

    Just one example that has gone on for years, popularized by C.B. DeMille in the “Ten Commandments,” the Red Sea is really the Reed Sea, making its parting a different proposition.

    The Torah and the Christian Bible are both results of years of translation, editing, redacting and also of insertions/deletions. They are certainly not accurate history’s, yet can be helpful if viewed allegorically.
    This is what makes religious fundamentalists so rigid and at times so rabid. They demand and they presume strictly literal meanings to be drawn from what is material not meant to be taken literally.

    Jesus didn’t speak in parables because he wanted to be obscure, he wanted people to think about and discuss the meanings of his preachings. This is what a prophet does and the later harm is done by those followers too dense, or too power hungry to make the effort. In that way they undo the true purposes of the prophet. This is true of almost all major religious beliefs.

  2. Mike,

    Not to split hairs….there is a book out there called the Lost Books of the Bible…yes…it is a Christian translation of Hebrew so it should be suspect…..but this I read years ago while I was in The ESofSW…..

    3. Immediately upon her birth, she will be full of the grace of the Lord and will continue in her father’s house during the three years of her weaning, and afterwards, being devoted to the service of the Lord, will not depart from the temple till she arrives to years of discretion.

    Mary’s “three years of weaning” may seem excessive to modern women, but it was not uncommon in the ancient world. The practice is still followed in many cultures today and is not unheard of in our own.

    Gospel of the Birth of Mary



    No more do I trust of beloved religiosity folks to divine the truth to us…

    The internet is an amazing thing…I’d had to have looked for a week for this book….

  3. “But from what I have read and understand….the Christians that claim the faith based in a Jesus….his mother…was given to the syn-agog …to be reared as children were at that time….probably not much difference between then and the Hasidics of present day religions….”


    it is somewhat different among the “Hasids.” Males usually remain at home and study at nearby “Yeshiva’s.” A Yeshiva is a rigorous school that also emphasizes Torah Study. Some are High School level and some are College and Graduate Level. The study is hard and the days are long. The link below gives a helpful, if incomplete overview.


    At the time of Jesus the central place for Jewish Worship was The Second Temple. This was run by the “Kohenim,” which refers to the designation of Kohen as one who has descended from Moses’
    brother Aaron. This was the core of the group you know as the Sadducee from the Gospels and Paul’s writings. The synagogue at the time referred to local institutions run by a man called Rabbi(teacher) and was where many young Jews were educated. This was where most Pharisee’s came from.

    Outside of Jerusalem, far from the temple, these Synagogue’s served as places of worship, but they did not become the central feature of Jewsish learning until after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70CE and the defeat of the Bar Kochba Rebellion circa 120CE. I believe the concept of giving a child to the Synagogue or Temple is not a Jewish concept. At adulthood, the age of 13, a Jewish male becomes responsible for assuming the yoke of the Torah, which means he is then responsible for his actions as an adult, rather than be a child lacking full responsibility.

    The cult-like aspect that I perceive with the Hasidim is their insularity from other non-Hasids and the centrality of their lives being based inside their communities. There is also a central figure “The Rebbe” a sort of “super Rabbi” whose position in most Hasid sects is hereditary and carries the ultimate authority. It gets more complicated though and diverges somewhat from normal cult behavior in that a big part of Torah study is involved in debating issues, but ultimately the final authority is vested in the group’s leader.

  4. Blouise,

    Welcome back we are far better off with your presence.

    “I hope no negative connotations came across when I was talking about food taboos.

    I’d be a little curious as to why the different grades of rum (gold and darker) are given a pass that gold tequila isn’t.”


    No offense taken. You bring up an good point discussing the blending to family tastes in a marriage. Three decades ago when we first married I was a devout carnivore and my wife didn’t like red meat, besides not being a big eater. This eventually led me to expand my food vision and I am so much better for it.
    Today, while I would love a good steak (rib is my steak of choice), my personal favorite is sushi. As the fates would have it I can no longer eat red meat rare (I was a black and blue guy)
    and am not allowed to eat sushi at all, due to the immune suppressants I take and my lowered immune system function. It is a small price to pay, but damn I’d love some Ahi Tuna, or a thick rib steak purple on the inside. My older daughter married a carnivore like me and she is a vegan for all intents and purposes. With three children now, they will grow up on an interesting mixture of food choices. My younger daughter is a carnivore, like me and also a sushi lover. My wife has pretty much remained the same which is why she also retains her great figure.

    As to children and your newborn, I feel I was blessed in having two girls. Who knows I could have had a son like myself and that would have been a trial.

    As to rum, I was unclear, I think the dark rums would also need to be inspected and passed. This dovetails into the other, less thought of aspect of Kashruth” not generally known to non-Jews and that is food producers and restaurants need to have inspections by a “Mashgiach” to certify them as Kosher. This link provides a good synopsis.:


Comments are closed.