Wednesday, July 16, 2014

5th Circuit: Designs of Specialty Plates Are Private Speech Protected By 1st Amendment; Cert. Filed On Similar Issue

In Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Vandergriff, (5th Cir., July 14, 2014), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held, in a 2-1 decision, that messages on state specialty license plates are private speech, not government speech.  The majority went on to conclude that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when, because many members of the public found the design offensive, it rejected a vanity plate design that included the Confederate flag. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on the decision.

Meanwhile, ADF announced that a petition for certiorari (full text) was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday in Berger v. American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. In the case, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that messages on vanity plates are private speech, held that North Carolina engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when it specifically authorized a "Choose Life" specialty license plate and refused to issue a pro-choice specialty plate. (See prior posting.)