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Federal court gets aboard ‘visual aid’ bandwagon

Not to be left behind by the Court of Appeals of Virginia, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has used a photograph to illustrate the subject of a North Carolina zoning dispute in a new opinion.

While the Virginia court has offered images of weapons, the federal judges included a photo of a house bearing an unusual protest message.

In painted letters nearly two feet high, the message reads, “Screwed by the town of Cary.” The homeowner apparently felt aggrieved by the town’s efforts to control water runoff.

Reversing a lower court decision, the 4th Circuit panel upheld the right of the town to bar the citizen’s protest sign under a town zoning ordinance.

The clerk of the federal appeals court confirms it is “very unusual” for the court to include a graphic illustration in its decisions. Patricia Conner said the last instance she could recall involved drawings of a Baltimore Ravens logo displayed in a published order deciding a copyright infringement claim.

Conner said she could not recall the use of a photograph in a prior 4th Circuit opinion.

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