1. Citation: United States v. Conti, E. D. S. C. , western Divtston, NO. 5:1 1-CV-470-F (2012) 2. Facts: In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 289, which approved the DMV to issue speciality license plates. One of these license plates was inscripted with the message “Choose Life. ” The Plaintiffs, headed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, and the Defendants, Eugene Conti and Michael Robertson, who held State positions directly pertaining to transportation, are at court regarding the “Choose Life” plate.
A percentage of the annual fee to have this plate on one’s car would go to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, which is the official contact in the state for Choose Life, Inc. The funds obtained would not be allowed to be used in any way beneficial to abortion services. Various legislators proposed amendments to the bill to included a pro-choice plate, but all six attempts failed to pass. The Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit accusing the Defendants of creating a state-funded program that backs only one viewpoint of an issue, thus violating the rights of private speech ound in the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
In the lower court, the presiding judge ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs in December 2011. The Defendants then appealed this decision to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which delivered its decision December 2012. 3. Issue: Is the “Choose Life” license plate viewpoint discrimination, which is determined by whether the content is private speech or government speech? 4. Rule: The rule used, as outlined by the presiding Judge, is a control test from a case in the th Circuit, Sons of Confederate Veterans v.
Comm’r of the Va. Dep’t of Motor Vehicles: (1) the central purpose of the program in which the speech in question occurs; (2) the degree of editorial control exercised by the government or private entities over the content of the speech; (3) the identity of the literal speaker; and (4) whether the government or the private entity bears the ultimate responsibility for the content of the speech (Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Comm’r of the Va. Dep’t of Motor vehicles, 305 F. d 241, 245 (4th ctr. 2002)). 5.
Application: Regarding the above test, the Judge answered each portion as follows: 1 . The speciality license plate program is advertised to the public of North Carolina under the category of private speech. 2. The State has total control over the content of the speciality license plates. House Bill 289 approved more than 70 new speciality license plates; however, there is no avenue for the North Carolinian drivers themselves to create a license plate. This factor, therefore, constitutes government speech. 3. This factor is clearly answered in the fourth portion of the control test.
The court gives a mixed answer for this and says that it falls under the category of hybrid speech, containing elements of both governmental and private speech ( United States v. conti, E. D. S. C. , western Dtvtston, NO. 5:11-CV-470-F (2012)). 4. The court finds that although the license plate content is designed by the government, it is the individual drivers who choose to purchase the “Choose Life” plate at an additional cost and display the message on their vehicles, and is a case of hybrid speech, which fall nder the category of private speech (Planned Parenthood of South Carolina, Inc. . Rose, 361 F. 3d (Michael, 6. Conclusion: The court concluded that the control test pointed to private/hybrid speech. Agreeing with the ruling made in the Rose case, the State’s refusal to offer a pro-choice license plate alongside the “Choose Life” plate is viewpoint discrimination, which is in violation of the First Amendment and therefore unconstitutional (Planned Parenthood of South Carolina, Inc. v. Rose, 361 F. 3d (Michael,