Court throws out Seattle yellow-pages restrictions

SEATTLE -- A federal appeals court panel says Seattle's restrictions on distributing the yellow pages in the city violate the U.S. Constitution.

The city adopted the restrictions in 2010, saying that the delivery of the phone books to residents who didn't want them generated 1,300 tons of waste a year and cost the city nearly $200,000 to dispose of.

The restrictions require publishers of the directories to obtain permits and pay a fee for each phone book distributed.

Dex Media and other yellow-pages companies sued, and a U.S. District judge in Seattle upheld the restrictions after finding the phone books constituted primarily commercial speech not entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment.

But a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed that decision Monday. The judges said that noncommercial speech such as community or government listings appear too, and that means the yellow pages are entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment.