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Supreme Court of the United States
March 23, 2015, Argued ; June 18, 2015, Decided
[*203] [***279] Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
Texas offers automobile owners a choice between ordinary and specialty license plates. Those who want the State to issue a particular specialty plate may propose a plate design, comprising a slogan, a graphic, or (most commonly) both. If the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board approves the design, the State will make it available for display on vehicles registered in Texas.
In this case, the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans proposed a [**2244] specialty license plate design featuring a Confederate battle flag. The Board rejected the proposal. We must decide whether that rejection violated the Constitution’s [*204] free speech guarantees. See Amdts. 1, 14. We conclude that it did not.
Texas law requires all motor vehicles operating on the State’s roads to display valid license [****6] plates. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§502.001 (West Supp. 2014), 504.001 (2013), 504.943 (Supp. 2014). And Texas makes available several kinds of plates. Drivers may choose to display the State’s general-issue license plates. See Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Motor Vehicle Registration Manual 9.1 (Apr. 2015). Each of these plates contains the word “Texas,” a license plate number, a silhouette of the State, a graphic of the Lone Star, and the slogan “The Lone Star State.” Texas Dept. of Motor Vehicles, The Texas Classic FAQs (July 16, 2012), online at http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/license-plates (all Internet materials as visited June 16, 2015, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file). In the alternative, drivers may choose from an assortment of specialty license plates. §504.008(b) (West 2013). Each of these plates contains the word “Texas,” a license plate number, and one of a selection of designs prepared by the State. See ibid.; Specialty License Plates, http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/licenseplates/specialty-license-plates (displaying available Texas specialty plates); Create a Plate: Your Design, http://www.myplates.com/BackgroundOnly (same). Finally, Texas law provides for personalized plates (also known as vanity plates). 43 Tex. Admin. Code §217.45(c)(7) (2015). Pursuant to the personalization program, a vehicle owner may request a particular alphanumeric pattern for use as a plate number, such [****7] as “BOB” or “TEXPL8.”
Here we are concerned only with the second category of plates, namely specialty license plates, not with the personalization program. Texas offers vehicle owners a variety of specialty plates, generally for an annual fee. See §217.45(b)(2). [*205] And Texas selects the designs for specialty plates through three distinct processes.
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576 U.S. 200 *; 135 S. Ct. 2239 **; 192 L. Ed. 2d 274 ***; 2015 U.S. LEXIS 4063 ****; 83 U.S.L.W. 4453; 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 390
JOHN WALKER, III, CHAIRMAN, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES BOARD, et al., Petitioners v. TEXAS DIVISION, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS, INC., et al.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Subsequent History: On remand at, Decision reached on appeal by Tex. Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Vandergriff, 795 F.3d 470, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 13149 (5th Cir. Tex., July 28, 2015)
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
Tex. Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Vandergriff, 759 F.3d 388, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 13507 (5th Cir. Tex., 2014)
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Transportation Law, Vehicle Registration, License Plates, Vanity Plates, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Speech, General Overview, Forums