Developing story. No link yet.
U.S. District Judge David Coar ruled Friday that Secretary of State Jesse White’s office violated the First Amendment when it refused to make license plates saying “Choose Life.’”
*** UPDATE *** The Choose Life IL people told me they’ll be posting a press release relatively soon on their website. It appears that just about everybody is in DC for the march today.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Jesse White spokesman Dave Druker: “We’re studying the opinion. We’re going to ask the Attorney general to appeal it… We don’t think we have the authority without legislative approval to create the license plates.”
*** UPDATE 3 *** You can download the opinion by clicking here [pdf file].
From the opinion:
…this court concludes that the privately-crafted and privately-funded message on specialty license plates constitutes private speech.
*** UPDATE 4 *** Also from the opinion:
Where the government voluntarily provides a forum for private expression, the government may not discriminate against some speakers because of their viewpoint. If the government is not expressing its own policy, it presumptively violates the First Amendment when it picks and chooses access to the forum on the basis of views expressed by the private speakers. […]
Defendantâ€™s main argument is that the license plate message is state speech, and thus not subject to First Amendment protection. However, it has been determined that the added message of specialty license plates constitute private speech, and thus the First Amendment is implicated.
*** UPDATE 5 *** More from the opinion…
By its terms, the statute does not require enabling legislation before a new category of specialty license plates may be issued. […]
Defendant requires that the General Assembly must approve specialty plates. Defendant has required that legislation be introduced and approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, and signed into law by the Governor, in order to approve the specialty plates. These requirements for specialty plates are not included in the statute authorizing specialty plates… and there are no substantive criteria or guidelines for the approval of the specialty license plates by the General Assembly and the Governor.
Katie, bar the door.
*** UPDATE 6 *** Just to be clear, I don’t have a position one way or another on the Choose Life plates. But, as I noted in comments, if all specialty plates are now to be considered “private speech,” I’m wondering what sort of road we’re heading down.
I’m about as free speech as a person can get. But I do think that the state probably ought to control what goes on license plates. Then again, the ensuing craziness will undoubtedly be a lot of fun. So, perhaps I’m a bit torn.
*** UPDATE 7 *** The AP story is up, and it’s not quite right.
A federal judge today ordered the state of Illinois to offer license plates with the pro-adoption motto “Choose Life.”
A group called Choose Life Illinois, made up largely of adoption advocates, has been trying for several years to get legislative approval.
The president of Choose Life Illinois is Jim Finnegan. Finnegan describes himself this way in his alumni directory entry:
Jim has distributed literature in front of hospitals that perform abortions and in front of the home of one of the most active abortionists in the Chicago area. Jim and his associates have placed large posters, that show the truth of abortion, in such areas as the Daley Plaza, the Art Institute in Chicago, and Chicago area train stations. Jim is on the Board of the Caring Institute that has provided Pro Life advertising on television, and is an advisor to the Board of the abortion breast cancer link that provides well-documented research on the connection between abortion and breast cancer. He is President of Pro Life adoption that promotes specialty license plates in Illinois, and is a co-founder of Vote Life America, which provides politiciansâ€™ voting records on such subjects as abortion, stem cell research and homosexual marriage demands. Jim spent a week in Ireland supporting organizations that campaign to keep abortion illegal in that country, and has raised over $80,000 in the US to provide support for these organizations in Ireland.
Another leader of the group is Tom Brejcha, who runs the Thomas More Society.
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society, Pro-Life Law Center, is a nonprofit, public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of all human life. The Society vigorously defends clients in state and federal courtrooms around the country, addressing vital issues across the pro-life spectrum, including pregnancy discrimination, end-of-life health care, the right of conscientious objection for medical workers, and freedom of speech for peaceable nonviolent protest.
Under the leadership of President and Chief Counsel Tom Brejcha, the Society champions the rights of pro-life activists — including in the United States Supreme Court, where we won two decisive victories in the past three years (2003, 8-1; 2006, 8-0).
Assisting Brejcha was DC law firm Robbins, Russel, Englert, Orseck & Untereiner, which has handled abortion-related cases.