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Purpose of Lawsuit Against Secretary of State


Jim Finnegan's Statement -- June 29, 2004

In July of 2002, the Illinois Choose Life committee was formed to apply for a specialty license plate that provided financial aid to organizations supporting ADOPTION as yet another choice during a crisis pregnancy.  Funds raised would go to Adoption Agencies, Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Homes for Unwed Mothers, and organizations who specialize in helping children already born who need assistance, such as foster and special needs children.

In 2003, we submitted the bill for approval of the plate during both the general session and the veto session.  Both times, we were turned down without receiving a fair hearing or floor vote in either the House or Senate.

We once again returned in February 2004.  Once again we received the same treatment.  It became very obvious that the issue of a specialty plate to benefit ADOPTION was not in their plans. 

Illinois, like California, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey, all have faulty systems for determining on a legislative (i.e. subjective) basis, which organizations receive, and do not receive, the legislators' blessing for the issuance of their plate.  Free Speech, under the First Amendment of our Constitution, and equal protection under the law, under the Fourteenth Amendment, are openly denied under such a subjective system.

On June 28th, after filing a lawsuit in Federal District Court (Civil case 04C4316), we announced to the media in Chicago, followed by an announcement in downstate Effingham, Illinois, (a crowd of almost 100) that we had filed this Federal case.  We do have 10 days to amend the complaint. 

We are seeking from the Court a temporary injunction against the issuance of any new specialty plates, and to hold back the renewal of any present plates, until a value neutral system is set up to determine who will receive a specialty plate.

Because of sovereign immunity issues found in our 11th Amendment, we cannot sue the General Assembly, or individual legislators, in Federal court.  Our suit is directed towards the elected official responsible for administering the faulty specialty license plate program now in place in Illinois.  Jesse White, in his official capacity as Illinois Secretary of State, is the one charged to enforce the law.   This falls within the Department of Motor Vehicles under White's charge, from where the specialty plate program is administered.

Our lawsuit seeks to even the playing field, by enjoining Jesse White, and the Secretary of States office, to stop the issuance of any new specialty plates, as well any renewals of all existing specialty plates, until a fair and equitable, non discriminatory, value neutral system has been established for the issuance of all specialty plates within Illinois. 

We want a system that will equally treat organizations such as our Choose Life ADOPTION AID group, to benefit their cause.  All groups should be given the same protection under the law.  In summary, we are not suing Mr. White individually, but rather the system he administers under the present legislative approval system within Illinois that has led to this blatant discrimination under the Free Speech and Equal Protection clauses of our Constitution, the Supreme law of our land.

Jim Finnegan
President, Illinois Choose Life Adoption Specialty Plates
460 East Lake Shore Drive
Barrington, Illinois 60010


Lawsuit Press Release


Dan Proft's Statement -- June 30, 2004

For the purposes of all the non-attorneys, let's keep this in laymen's terms because that's how we need to explain to the public:

(1) As Tom Brejcha (attorney who filed the Federal lawsuit) said, because of sovereign immunity issues (11th Amendment), we cannot "sue the state"...we are suing Jesse White in his capacity as Secretary of State.  In that capacity, he adminsters the specialty license plate program.

(2) The relief we are seeking is to enjoin (i.e. stop) the specialty license plate program in IL from proceeding unless and until a value-neutral, content-neutral set of standards is put in place by the Illinois
General Assembly so that all specialty plates and the groups who derive benefit from the proceeds of the plate are afforded equitable treatment before the law.

Why is this the case?  The state has created this public forum through the specialty plate program...once the state creates a public forum, absent failure to comply with clearly defined standards, the state cannot regulate access to that forum based on content.

So suing Jesse White is to get the court to tell him to stop the program...he stops the program and forces the Illinois General Assembly to act--they either put standards as described above in place (if the court so deems) or disband the program.

This is better than getting a judge simply to declare the program unconstitutional because doing that would absolve the Illinois General Assembly of responsibility and would eliminate the program by court action.  We want the Illinois General Assembly to have to make a choice...put the heat on them.

Gaining an injunction as we have proposed will put the heat back where it belongs, on the Illinois General Assembly, and the legislators will be getting heat from all those groups that currently benefit from specialty plates.

This is a very creative and intelligent approach Tom Brejcha has taken.

Dan Proft




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