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Just in time for the Roe v. Wade anniversary… *** Updated x7 ***

Monday, Jan 22, 2007

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. […]

Defendant’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 politicians’ 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 4:22 pm:

    For crying out loud, what is the problem?
    You see state license plates with all kinds of statements on them, what is the big deal about this?

    If you don’t want these license plates, don’t order them. But for Pete’s sakes, what is with the mentality that it is OK to deny the First Amendment? Where is the freedom we have?

    “Choose Life”. How can someone be opposed to a statement like that?

    There is a time to be political and a time to back off. It is crazy that the same crowd that feels completely fine to print porn, wear seditious T-shirts, and do the most outrageous things in the name of freedom, could be so hypocritical about allowing others the same freedom.

    What are they so afraid of?


  2. - B Hicks - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 4:37 pm:

    I agree with Vanilla 100%. Hell, the Masons have their own plate.

    Whole bunch of pro-choice people outside the dome today; they looked pretty cold.

    P.S. I like printed porn and seditious T-shirts, too.


  3. - paddyrollingstone - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 4:43 pm:

    Seriously, what could be the possible harm in this?


  4. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 4:48 pm:

    Paddy, if the plates are “private speech” then can you imagine the types of slogans that people and groups could put on them?


  5. - Big Fella - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 4:57 pm:

    This ruling, were it to stand, kills every specialty plate in the nation. The ruling seems overly sweeping. It opens the door for vastly more pointed language on plates. It appear, based on the ruling, that they could go with “Abortion is murder” and enjoy the same protection as “Choose life.”

    It seems like the judge intended to notify the state (or states in general) that specialty license plates may seem cute and innocuous, but they’re not.

    I can’t wait to see what happens on appeal.


  6. - paddyrollingstone - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 5:08 pm:

    Rich - perhaps I spoke too soon - I have not seen the judge’s ruling. I know that Florida has “Choose Life” plates, though, and the world did not end.


  7. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 5:09 pm:

    There’s a link to the judge’s opinion in the body of the post. Read it. It’s very broad.


  8. - Downstate Surveyor - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 5:09 pm:

    Don’t you just love how the bureaucrats and the pols keep trying to skewer each other, while the rest of us have to pay for it? I’m with all the others, what’s the big deal? How about “Stem Cell” plates in retaliation?


  9. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 5:34 pm:

    Why do you think the Chief never made his way on to the U of I license plates….

    Unreal.

    Rich, you may want to note a CapFax Blog milestone. Apparently, VM, B. Hicks (Happy New Year, BTW.) and ol’ AA are in 100% agreement on a topic. That’s a first. If Bill concurs, the blog may lock up.


  10. - HoosierDaddy - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 5:55 pm:

    The judge is absolutely correct. He is just quoting basic constitutional law. If the government doesn’t want to have any message whatseover on its license plates, then it needs to get out of the gimmickry of allowing special license plates in the first place. Political speech is precisely what the First Amendment was designed to protect.

    Personally, I think specialty plates are a stupid gimmick. I’d like to see all of them go the way of the dodo. They’re confusing to cops and anyone else who needs to read a license plate.


  11. - So Blue Democrat - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 6:38 pm:

    I wonder what the State Police’s opinion is on this issue. They have complained that they are too many different types of license plates.


  12. - Dundee - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 7:58 pm:

    Does Jack Roeser get any recognition from this?


  13. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 8:37 pm:

    Hoosier is 100 percent right. The state opened the door for this when it created the specialty plates and then kept expanding it for this group and that group but not this group or that group. I always get a kick out of pro-law enforcement lawmakers pushing dozens of specialty plates while the cops keep screaming “stop.”
    One friggin plate ought to be enough


  14. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 10:33 pm:

    Does this mean we can organize to get a “Torture is wrong” license plate?


  15. - Beowulf - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 6:42 am:

    My own thought is that “specialty plates” should have been done away with a long time ago. If individuals want to advertise their own personal beliefs, they should do so on their own by wearing a sign such as “Eat at Joe’s” on their person or by having it placed on their car at their own expense. Leave our state government out of it. It has always amazed me what our government representatives have been willing to do “in order to make a buck” and in order to get re-elected. Prostitution of and by an entity is easily accomplished without sex being involved.


  16. - Bill - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:10 am:

    I concur! Choose life!!!


  17. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 11:19 am:

    Choose Life
    Torture is Wrong
    I Am Pet Friendly
    I Love Pizza
    More, Lord!

    It seems that anyone can make these statements political. But they are not political if you choose not to recognize them as such. But to allow the Secretary of State to decide which statement is allowable infringes on the First Amendment.

    In Colorado, the Columbine Survivors Fund wanted a specialty license plate with the state flower, (a columbine), and the message “Choose Life”. This message was chosen by victim’s parents and loved ones, but denied repeatedly by those playing politics with it. Finally, the Representative from Littleton, Don Lee, representing Columbine and it’s families was able to slide the adoption of the plates through the legistlature. Democrats howled and stamped. Today, “Choose Life” is the number one license plate on Colorado’s roads. Motorists like the flower, others like the statement, most just like it.

    I do not want to see our tax money fight freedom of speech. PRINT THE PLATES!


  18. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 12:29 pm:

    Actually, if this ruling stands, I have the sense that all vanity plates will have to be done away with.

    Does anyone want a Land of Satan on an Illinois plate.

    Or Child Molesters for man child love?

    We could increase the number of plates needed for a request to keep down the numbers, but this creates all sorts of problems.


  19. - NotABlagoFan - Wednesday, Jan 24, 07 @ 12:48 am:

    The State would most likely be permitted to refuse plates that contain hate speech since its a different analysis and standard under the 1st Amd.

    I think it’s time to just do away with all speciality plates and just have one. But for god sakes, please redesign the current plate!


  20. - COOLMOMM - Wednesday, Jan 24, 07 @ 11:44 am:

    I want the plates!!! Bring ‘em on Mr. White!!!
    There are over 130 million children in the world who need to be adopted.
    CHOOSE LIFE is a pro life, pro adoption statement.
    Please, allow the plates to be made.


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