106 Iowa L. Rev. 363 (2020)
Download PDF


 When Pennsylvania introduced the vanity license pi ale in the early iqyos, it represented the first, time a state government added an expressive component to the otherwise solely id.entificato'iy license plate. Vanity-plate programs are now ubiquitous across the United Stales, and those programs are accompanied by sweeping and amorphous restrictions on categories of expression that the states will permit to appear on the plates. When these restrictions face constitutional challenge, both state and, federal courts have disagreed as to whether those restrictions are constitutional, reaching wildly different conclusions at every stage of the First Amendment analysis. This Note suggests that the Supreme Court, in an appropriate case, should, clarify the framework for analyzing the constitutionality of vanityplate regulations. Based on this adjusted framework, this Note contends that, in many cases, states' broad restrictions cannot be squared with the First and Fourteenth Atnendtne tits' joint guarantee that state governments "shall make no law. . . abridging the freedom of speech," To reach this end, (his Note first concludes that vanity-plates' alphanumeric configurations are better understood as the expression of the private actors who request them, rather than of the stale governments who approve the plates. Second, it turns lo those categories of speech most commonly proscribed by vanity-plate regulations, ft concludes that several of these categories--offensive speech, disparaging speech, and profane speech--cannot be wholly restricted, without engaging in viewpoint discrimination, which is at the core of what is prohibited by the First Amendment.

Sunday, November 15, 2020