March 10, 2020

New lawsuit challenges California’s egregious censorship of license plates like “OG” and “QUEER”

First Amendment lawsuit filed in federal court

San Francisco; March 10, 2020: A lawsuit filed today challenges the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ arbitrary censorship of speech on personalized license plates. 

 

After Chris Ogilvie was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army following four tours overseas, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, he bought a new car and applied for a personalized license plate that read “OGWOOLF.” The plate simply tied in his military nickname, OG, and his nickname from home, Woolf. 

Ogilvie was shocked and furious when the California DMV rejected his licenseplate application, alleging that OG is short for “original gangster” and too offensive for motorists. To Ogilvie, the personalized plate also represented a very important form of self-expression protected by the same Constitution that he defended during his years of service. 

Laws that give government officials discretion to ban speech they find offensive lead to senseless results, said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Wen Fa. Chris earned his nickname through years of service to our country, and thereno reason why he shouldnbe able to express that in a personalized license plate. 

Four other Californians joined the lawsuit to challenge the rejection of their plates: 

  • “DUK N A, short for “Ducati and Andrea, rejected because it sounded like an obscene phrase. 
  • “BO11UX,” rejected because the term was said to have sexual connotations, even though “bullocks” has been used to mean nonsense in a national advertising campaign. 
  • “SLAAYRR,” a reference to the metal band, rejected because it was considered “threatening, aggressive, or hostile. 
  • “QUEER,” a reference to a musician’s identity and record label, rejected because it was considered insulting, degrading, or expressive of contempt. 

Chris OgilvieAndrea Campanile, Paul Crawford, James Blair, and Amrit Kohliare represented free of charge byPacific Legal Foundation. The case is Ogilvie v. Gordon, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Case Documents

Pacific Legal Foundaation case document
Ogilvie v. Gordon - Complaint
March 10, 2020 Download

About Pacific Legal Foundation

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 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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