Walker v. Tex. Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: June 18, 2015
  • Case #: 14-144
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts, C.J. and Scalia and Kennedy, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

Texas's specialty license plate designs constitute government speech.

Texas offers automobile owners a choice between generic and specialty license plates. All proposed specialty license plates must be approved by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board (“Petitioner”). Petitioner rejected Respondent's request to approve a specialty license plate design featuring a Confederate battle flag. The district court entered judgment in favor of the Petitioner and the Fifth Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether state issued license plates are government speech; the content of which the State is free to control. The Court reversed. The First Amendment does not regulate government speech; when the government speaks it is free to "select the views it wants to express." Texas's specialty license plate designs are "meant to convey and have the effect of conveying a government message." Specialty license plate designs are government speech and Petitioner is entitled to refuse to issue plates featuring Respondent's proposed design.

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