Saturday, December 06, 2014

Supreme Court Will Review 5th Circuit Decision On Specialty License Plates

As reported by SCOTUS blog, yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, (Docket No. 14-144, cert. granted 12/5/2014). (Order List). In the case, the 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 also concluded that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when it rejected a specialty plate design that included the Confederate battle flag. Texas rejected the design because many members of the public found it offensive.  (See prior posting.) The petition for certiorari focused on two issues-- whether messages and images on specialty plates are government speech; and whether denial of a plate can involve viewpoint discrimination if the state never issued a plate expressing a different message on the same subject.

Reporting on the Court's grant of cert., the Washington Post points out that the Court still has before it a petition for certiorari in ACLU v. Tata involving North Carolina's authorization of a "Choose Life" specialty plate while it refused to issue a pro-choice plate. (See prior posting.)