Government Advertising Space: Lessons for the 'Choose Life' Specialty License Plate Controversy

01 Jan 2007

As license plates emblazoned with the message “Choose Life” have proliferated in twenty-four states, so too have lawsuits challenging such specialty license plates. The holdings of such cases have run the gamut, resulting in a three-way circuit split among the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Circuits. Analysis of the controversy up to this point has not considered an illuminating analogy: advertising space owned and operated by the government. Examining the parallels between advertising space and specialty license plates informs doctrinal analysis of the dispute, demonstrating that state legislatures may not use the current practice of individually establishing specialty license plates through statute, but must instead choose acceptable subjects to appear on license plates, leaving individual applications under the care of a neutral administrator.