Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments On Specialty Plates and Free Speech

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. (Full transcript of oral arguments).  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 5th Circuit majority also concluded that Texas engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when it rejected, as offensive, a specialty plate design that included the Confederate battle flag. (See prior related posting.)  SCOTUSblog reports on the oral arguments, saying in part:
From the moment that a state lawyer stood up in the Supreme Court to argue that messages on license plates are government speech, it seemed that the Justices went forward for the rest of the hour assuming that it was not — at least not always.  A strange hearing thus unfolded on when the First Amendment puts curbs on government regulation of expression, and how tight those curbs can be.
New York Times also reports on the arguments.