The ACLU of South Dakota filed a federal lawsuit challenging South Dakota's personalized license plate law and the Motor Vehicle Division's policy that infringes on the free speech rights of all South Dakotans.
The case was filed on behalf of Lyndon Hart, whose free speech was stifled when his application for a “REZWEED” plate was initially denied as being allegedly “in poor taste.” Hart runs a business called Rez Weed Indeed that supports and promotes the legal selling and use of medical and recreational marijuana on Native American reservations. He intended for the requested REZWEED plate to refer to his business and its mission of promoting Tribal sovereignty.
In the past five years, the Motor Vehicle Division has rejected hundreds of personalized plate requests because they allegedly carried “connotations offensive to good taste and decency” – a standard that is overly broad, vague and subjective and that is in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including the rights of free speech and due process.
Even though the Motor Vehicle Division implemented an update to its policy in September to “clarify the approval process for personalized plates,” it doesn’t change or repeal any parts of the codified law in question and still contains provisions that censor free speech of South Dakotans. Additionally, if a personalized plate has been issued but later determined to carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency, the Motor Vehicle Division can recall it.
The case, Hart v. Houdyshell, was filed in the Central Division of the of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota.