Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Suit Targets California’s Ban on ‘Come on You Whites’ Plate
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 5 years ago on
April 10, 2019

Share

LOS ANGELES — A soccer fan says in a lawsuit that the California Department of Motor Vehicles violated his First Amendment rights by rejecting a personalized license plate he said would celebrate his favorite team, but which the DMV determined might be deemed offensive.

“You can’t allow bureaucrats to make decisions that are fundamental to what it means to be an American, and our free speech is one of those things. When the government starts to infringe on our rights, that’s when the individual citizen must speak up.” — Jon Kotler
Jon Kotler applied for a plate that would read “COYW,” an acronym of the slogan “Come on You Whites” used by supporters of London-based Fulham Football Club, according to the federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Fulham players wear white jerseys.
In denying the proposed plate, the DMV said the abbreviation could “have racial overtones” and carry “connotations offensive to good taste and decency,” according to the court filing.
The department’s rejection of the application violated his right to freedom of speech, said Kotler, a lawyer and constitutional scholar at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
The Department of Motor Vehicles said Tuesday that it does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Kotler’s suit asks the court to declare the Department of Motor Vehicles’ criteria for personalized license plates unconstitutional. He also wants the department to pay his court costs.
“You can’t allow bureaucrats to make decisions that are fundamental to what it means to be an American, and our free speech is one of those things,” Kotler said in a news release. “When the government starts to infringe on our rights, that’s when the individual citizen must speak up.”

Courts Often Split in Cases Claiming Censorship Over Personalized Plates

In its rejection letter to Kotler, the Department of Motor Vehicles acknowledged the difficulties in balancing “an individual’s constitutional right to free speech and expression while protecting the sensibilities of all segments of our population.”

“To me courts should be very sensitive to viewpoint discrimination and should err on the side of protecting the individual’s speech from government censorship.” — David L. Hudson, constitutional scholar
In a 1973 case, the California Court of Appeals upheld the Department of Motor Vehicles’ standard of “good taste and decency” in rejecting a plaintiff’s claim that his free speech was violated when the department rejected his requested license plate, “EZ LAY.”
Constitutional scholar David L. Hudson said courts are often split in cases claiming censorship over personalized plates.
“It appears in this case that the government has engaged in regrettable censorship of Mr. Kotler’s speech,” said Hudson, who teaches at Tennessee’s Belmont University and is a fellow at the Freedom Forum Institute. “To me courts should be very sensitive to viewpoint discrimination and should err on the side of protecting the individual’s speech from government censorship.”
Kotler is being represented pro bono by the libertarian-leaning nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation. The group criticized the Department of Motor Vehicles’ “attempt to make itself the speech police” in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
“You can call Jon a sports fan or a First Amendment expert, but the DMV’s misguided efforts to regulate license plates have misbranded Jon as a racist,” the foundation said.

DON'T MISS

Fresno Man Charged with Throwing Meth into Mendota Prison Yard

DON'T MISS

Porchfest Victims Use Fresno Council Meeting to Demand That DA File Hate Crime Charges

DON'T MISS

CA Home Prices Near $1 Million Average. What do Central Valley Homes Cost?

DON'T MISS

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

DON'T MISS

Explorers Find What They Believe Is World War II Ace Richard Bong’s Downed Plane in South Pacific

DON'T MISS

Giants Rally From a Big Deficit Again and Spoil a Solid Start by Paul Skenes in 7-6 Win Over Pirates

DON'T MISS

This Sweet Tradition Is Sure to Bring Out the Crowds at Fresno State’s Farm Market

DON'T MISS

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Ease for Third Straight Week, Dipping to Just Below 7%

DON'T MISS

General Sherman Passes Health Check but World’s Largest Trees Face Growing Climate Threats

DON'T MISS

Sheriff’s Memorial for Fallen Officers: In Valor There Is Hope

UP NEXT

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

UP NEXT

Cal Chamber’s Job Killer List Shrinks, but Does Its Influence?

UP NEXT

California Advances Legislation Cracking Down on Stolen Goods Resellers and Auto Theft

UP NEXT

Portland Nurse Returns Home After Treating Gaza Burn Victims

UP NEXT

Search and Rescue Ongoing After Iowa Tornado; 1 Dead

UP NEXT

How the Beatles Empowered a Research Genius to Save Millions of Lives

UP NEXT

Petrochemical Company Fined $30M for 2019 Houston Explosions

UP NEXT

Use Your Library Card for Free Admission to Millerton Lake. For a Few More Weeks, Anyway.

UP NEXT

Why US Catholics Are Planning Pilgrimages in Communities Across the Nation

UP NEXT

UC Academic Workers Strike in Solidarity with Pro-Palestinian Protesters

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

2 hours ago

Explorers Find What They Believe Is World War II Ace Richard Bong’s Downed Plane in South Pacific

2 hours ago

Giants Rally From a Big Deficit Again and Spoil a Solid Start by Paul Skenes in 7-6 Win Over Pirates

3 hours ago

This Sweet Tradition Is Sure to Bring Out the Crowds at Fresno State’s Farm Market

3 hours ago

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Ease for Third Straight Week, Dipping to Just Below 7%

3 hours ago

General Sherman Passes Health Check but World’s Largest Trees Face Growing Climate Threats

3 hours ago

Sheriff’s Memorial for Fallen Officers: In Valor There Is Hope

4 hours ago

Charlie Colin, Founding Member of Train, Dies at 58 After Slipping in Shower

5 hours ago

Cavaliers Fire Coach J.B. Bickerstaff Despite Making Second Round of Playoffs

5 hours ago

Carr Brothers Donate $250K to Valley Children’s Hospital

5 hours ago

Fresno Man Charged with Throwing Meth into Mendota Prison Yard

A federal grand jury has indicted Garrett Scott Wheelen, 33, of Fresno, on one count of possessing methamphetamine, U.S. Attorney Phillip A....

29 mins ago

29 mins ago

Fresno Man Charged with Throwing Meth into Mendota Prison Yard

37 mins ago

Porchfest Victims Use Fresno Council Meeting to Demand That DA File Hate Crime Charges

1 hour ago

CA Home Prices Near $1 Million Average. What do Central Valley Homes Cost?

2 hours ago

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

2 hours ago

Explorers Find What They Believe Is World War II Ace Richard Bong’s Downed Plane in South Pacific

3 hours ago

Giants Rally From a Big Deficit Again and Spoil a Solid Start by Paul Skenes in 7-6 Win Over Pirates

3 hours ago

This Sweet Tradition Is Sure to Bring Out the Crowds at Fresno State’s Farm Market

3 hours ago

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Ease for Third Straight Week, Dipping to Just Below 7%

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend