Lawsuit targets California DMV’s censorship of personalized plates
April 09, 2019
Los Angeles; April 9, 2019: A lawsuit filed today challenges the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ arbitrary censorship of personal speech on personalized license plates.
Jon Kotler applied for a personalized plate to celebrate the success of his favorite soccer team—the London-based Fulham Football Club. The team is known by its white jerseys, and Kotler’s proposed license plate read “COYW,” an abbreviation of the club’s commonly used slogan “Come on You Whites.”
To his surprise, the DMV rejected the plate, saying it was purportedly hostile, insulting, or racially degrading. A professor of constitutional law at the University of Southern California, Kotler felt the decision violated his First Amendment rights.
“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. “As I tell my students, ours is the only constitution in the world that protects its citizens against their own government. When the government starts to infringe on our rights, that’s when the individual citizen must speak up. If we don’t, we’ll get what we deserve and will have only ourselves to blame.”
“The First Amendment does not allow the DMV to serve as the arbiter of good taste,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Wen Fa. “When government officials are given free rein to regulate free speech, they’ll come to conclusions that are biased, arbitrary, and, in this case, flat-out wrong.”
Pacific Legal Foundation represents Kotler free of charge. The case is Kotler v. Webb. More information is available at pacificlegal.org/DMV.
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.