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Choose Life Update from Legal Counsel


June 2015 Update

(June 18, 2015)  Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society has responded to the U.S. Supreme Court decision today that is likely to have a negative impact on establishing “Choose Life” specialty license plates in states that do not yet have them available, including Illinois.  Read more ...

February 2015 Update

(Feb 18, 2015)  The Thomas More Society has filed an amicus brief urging the United States Supreme Court to rule that specialty license plates, including “Choose Life” license plates, constitute private speech in a designated public forum, which is protected by the First Amendment as free speech. The brief is brought on behalf of Choose Life America, Choose Life Wisconsin, and Illinois Choose Life.  Read more ...

August 2014 Update

(Aug 14, 2014)  The Thomas More Society has taken an opportunity to join a multi-state lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case of Choose Life license plates that are currently denied in Illinois, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Their amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to hear the case in order to resolve disputes among lower courts over how to treat specialty license plates.  Read more ...

October 2009 Update

(Oct 5, 2009)  The Supreme Court's order came down this morning: certiorari denied. That means that, as we surmised last week when the case didn't appear on the "grant list," we've now lost the appeal. This is now about as "final" as "final" usually means, with one extremely slim exception -- there's a provision in the Rules for filing of a "petition for rehearing." That is, we could ask the Justices to change their mind. We need four votes to get review. Who knows, we may have gotten three... One change of view and we'd be "in."

So, we've decided to consider the option even though the odds against grant of any such petition for rehearing are almost astronomical. We're going to ask Prof. Michael McConnell who now runs the Stanford Law School Supreme Court practice clinic to take a look at whether he thinks our case is worth the effort of asking for rehearing. McConnell used to teach at Univ. of Chicago Law School where he established a reputation as a widely respected First Amendment scholar after which Pres. Bush appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (Salt Lake City). A year or so ago he resigned that position to take the job at Stanford, preferring the role of advocate to the more passive role of federal appellate Judge. If McConnell thinks this long shot is worth the effort, we'll take it and if lightning strikes we'll ask him to take a lead role in pursuing the appeal.

Is this anything more than venting outrage at a gross injustice? I'm not sure, but I've always held that you have to learn to take a punch in order to win and while this punch hurt worse than most, I do think we should at least check out every last option and this one remains before us. Never say die, and keep the faith!

Tom Brejcha
President & Chief Counsel
Thomas More Society,
A National Public Interest Law Firm
29 S. La Salle St.
Chicago, Illinois 60603
Office 312-782-1680

April 2009 Updates

(April 29, 2009)  Supreme Court appeal on Choose Life license plates as 1st Amendment issue

Dear Friends, 'Fellow Travelers,' 'Persons of Interest,' and other Folks,

Please see our petition for review by the Supreme Court of the 7th Circuit's decision last November reversing our federal trial judge's ruling (Hon. David Coar) that the State of Illinois' denial of a 'choose life' specialty license plate constituted 'viewpoint discrimination' violative of our clients' 1st amendment rights and that Illinois Sec'y of State Jesse White should approve and issue such plates -- whose proceeds were to be earmarked to support adoption in Illniois -- forthwith. Judge Coar stayed his ruling pending appeal by the Illniois AG, and the 7th Circuit reversed on the ground that such specialty license plates are not a public forum and the State's alleged policy of banning any messages on such plates relating to the entire subject of 'reproductive rights' was 'reasonable' given the 'controversial' character of those messages.

The appellate decision created a medley of circuit conflicts. The 9th Circuit recently ruled, in accord with Judge Coar, that denial of a 'choose life' plate by Arizona was indeed viewpoint discrimination. And the 8th Circuit even more recently ruled that the lack of standards in the Missouri law on specialty plates rendered that state's statutory scheme unconstitutional -- whereas the 7th Circuit avoided that result by carving out a new 'legislative exception' to the very established constitutional rule that bans putting standardless discretion in the hands of officials who wield the censor's scissors, saying that a federal mandate for such standards would amount to one legislature binding its successor. Finally, while we prevailed below in urging that specialty plate messages constitute private speech, not government speech (Compare, Summum v. Utah, recently classifying a permanent park monument to the 10 commandments as 'gove rnment speech'), the 6th Circuit rejected an ACLU attack on a Tennessee 'choose life' specialty plate when that state had refused to approve a 'pro-choice' plate.

Our clients believe that if a group mustered the requisite amount of signed petitions (Choose Life Illinois, Inc. garnered over 25,000 signatures whereas Jesse White has said that only 700 would cover production costs and thus would suffice), they would have no objection whatever to Illinois also having a 'pro-choice' plate.

Illinois has approved over 60 different other specialty plate messages -- including, e.g., an anti-violence or peace plate, an environmental plate, a commemorative Obama plate, a Knights of Columbus plate and a Masons plate, a pet friendly plate, an organ donor plate -- and so forth. The trial record showed that no other specialty plate with the requisite signatures had been rejected apart from the 'choose life' plate.

The odds against a cert. grant are 120 to 1 on purely numerical grounds, but our chances seem much better given the many circuit conflicts this appeal presents. Yesterday Adam Liptak wrote in the NY Times that many scholars now feel that, although the Court has rejected recent appeals in license plate cases, it's time for the Court to step in and strike some order in this messy jurisprudence. Drawing the line between viewpoint discrimination and content-based discrimination along poses an important challenge, as does the 7th Circuit's ruling (per Sykes, J., joined by Evans and Manion, with Manion specially concurring) that specialty plates are neither a designated public forum nor a limited public forum but rather a private forum.

There is a financial element in the case inasmuch as a percentage of specialty plate registration fees are shared with the sponsoring non-profit group and if only $10 of the annual fees were diverted to Illinois adoption agencies, given the 25,000 petition signers (now the figure is up to 40,000), you can see that a large, recurring income stream would be created for these needy charities...

Amicus briefs are due by May 16th, and under new SupremeCourt rules notice of intent to file must be served 10 days ahead of time on interested parties and counsel, so time is short. There are groups interested in supporting our appeal from around the U.S., if anybody is interested or could help us find qualified and capable counsel who might want to weigh in on these pressing issues.

Please pardon our sending you so much paper, but feel free to read it, or some of it, and you may enjoy it!!

Tom Brejcha, president & chief counsel, Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, 29 S. LaSalle St., Suite 440, Chicago, Illinois 60603, ofc tel. 312-782-1680

(April 16, 2009)   Today the Chicago-based Thomas More Society filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse a decision prohibiting the issuance and sale of "Choose Life" specialty license plates in Illinois. This decision was handed down last November, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago) rejected a claim by Choose Life Illinois, Inc. (CLI) that the State's refusal to approve a specialty license plate bearing the words "Choose Life" violated the First Amendment.

"We expected that this issue would have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court," said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society and chief counsel for CLI et. al. "The right of Arizona citizens to purchase 'Choose Life' specialty plates was recently upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that denial of the plates constituted 'viewpoint discrimination.' The Seventh Circuit held the contrary, yet the First Amendment must mean the same thing throughout the entire United States."

While the odds against the Supreme Court agreeing to hear any given appeal may seem overwhelming (only 1 of every 120 petitions has been granted in recent years), Brejcha and the other CLI lawyers are optimistic.

"If anything, our clients' claim against Illinois is overripe for review," continues Brejcha. "Our petition for review highlights the fact that litigation concerning the 'Choose Life' plates over the last ten years has created a patchwork of conflicting decisions. We will be greatly surprised, as well as disappointed, if the Court fails to grant review."


March 2009 Update

Thomas More Society attorney Tom Brejcha commented on the positive implications of the March 2009 Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of Missouri Choose Life plates.  He observed, "Good news from the 8th Circuit -- and even more grist for our mill as we head 'upstairs' with the filing due next month in the Supreme Court!"  Here is a summary of the implications:

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling upholding the right of Missouri residents to purchase Choose Life license plates. The court ruled that the plates represent a private view of the citizens purchasing them and are not state-sponsored speech.  Therefore, blocking that speech violates the First Amendment.  Previously, the Ninth Circuit issued a similar ruling upholding Choose Life plates in Arizona.

Before that, the Sixth Circuit upheld Choose Life plates in Tennessee and the Fifth Circuit upheld the plates in Louisiana.  In both of those cases the issue was whether abortion advocates experienced discrimination because they did not have a license plate advocating their position, but the courts rejected such a position for different reasons.

One month after the Ninth Circuit Arizona decision was allowed to stand by the Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the State of Illinois could block Choose Life plates.  The court ruled that content discrimination is not a First Amendment violation because Illinois can choose to exclude the "entire subject of abortion." 

The Eighth Circuit ruling for Missouri Choose Life plates again points out just how off-base the ruling issued by the Seventh Circuit was, effectively denying the First Amendment by allowing content-based discrimination.  Even when the Fourth Circuit disallowed Choose Life plates for South Carolina, the ruling rejected the process as subject to content-based discrimination so South Carolina legislated a new process, and Choose Life plates were approved there.

Only the Seventh Circuit has ultimately blocked Choose Life plates.    The Thomas More Society is appealing this Seventh Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court.  Now, this latest Eighth Circuit ruling can only further encourage the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, by again highlighting how inconsistent the Seventh Circuit ruling stacks up against the rulings of other circuit courts. 


December 2008 Update

Thomas More Society reports that the 7th Circuit Court has denied their rehearing petition so the next step will be filing a petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  If the Supreme Court is willing to hear the case, this denial by the 7th Circuit could overturned. 


November 2008 Update

Thomas More Society Asks U.S. Court of Appeals to Reinstate Decision Allowing 'Choose Life' Illinois License Plates  (November 26, 2008)

New Decision Conflicts with Federal Ruling on Arizona "Choose Life" Plates; U.S. Supreme Court Appeal Possible Next Step

Just two weeks after a three-Judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit overturned a lower court's ruling that Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White must produce and sell "Choose Life" Illinois specialty license plates, lawyers for the Thomas More Society have filed a petition asking all the Judges in active service on the Court of Appeals to reinstate the earlier ruling. That ruling had been handed down January 22, 2007 by a federal district Judge, ordering that the plates be made available.

Over 25,000 Illinois citizens had signed petitions for the "Choose Life" plate, sale proceeds of which were to fund Illinois adoption agencies to help children find lifetime homes with loving families. But efforts to get the plate approved by Illinois authorities were frustrated at every turn. Bills introduced in the General Assembly were diverted to a special subcommittee where they died without any hearing. Secretary of State Jesse White claimed he did not have power to approve the plate himself, and when the federal trial court ruled that he did have such authority under the wording of license plate statute, the General Assembly passed a new bill that required legislative approval for every new specialty plate.

At a meeting with Choose Life Illinois leaders, Illinois Senate president Emil Jones said he disagreed with the "Choose Life" message, as his position was "pro-choice." Based on all these facts, which Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan never contradicted, the federal district court held that suppression of the "Choose Life" plates constituted "viewpoint discrimination" which violates the free speech rights of the petition signers and other Illinois citizens under the 1st Amendment. Illinois has also approved many specialty plates supporting other causes, such as environmental, peace and wildlife.

The Choose Life Illinois petition highlights "questions of exceptional importance" involving conflicts between the panel's ruling and rulings of other courts approving such plates. Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of Thomas More Society, said that an appeal to the US Supreme Court is likely in the event that rehearing is not granted, or if enough votes are not won on rehearing to overturn the panel's decision.

"We are committed to fight this battle to the finish," said Brejcha, "It makes no sense that suppression of the 'Choose Life' specialty plate in Arizona was condemned by the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals as 'viewpoint discrimination' in violation of the First Amendment rights of Arizona's citizens, whereas that same suppression here in Illinois was held a valid exercise of state power.

"Our US Constitution, especially the First Amendment's free speech clause, must be held to mean the same thing in all parts of our country, and it makes no sense that specialty plates that say 'Choose Life' whose proceeds support the cause of adoption are permitted in so many other states, yet outlawed here. This is a classic case of what federal courts always have condemned as 'viewpoint discrimination' and it must be stopped."

The Choose Life Illinois petition, whose principal author is Alan Untereiner, of the Washington, D.C. law firm, Robbins, Russell, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP, raises other issues including: (a) whether Illinois' action could be justified even if viewed only as a "content restriction" rather than as "viewpoint bias" in light of controlling Supreme Court precedent; (b) whether specialty license plates should be viewed as a "nonpublic forum," as the panel ruled, or rather as a "designated public forum" as most other courts have ruled; and (c) whether the panel erred in carving out a new, unprecedented "legislative body" exception to the venerable First Amendment principle forbidding license schemes that delegate unfettered, standardless discretion to government decision-makers.

Lawyers from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office had argued that Illinois' refusal to approve Choose Life plates was lawfully based on the 'controversial' nature of the plates' message - the slogan "choose life" and two smiling kids' faces. They claimed that Illinois must be permitted to refuse any messages relating to 'reproductive rights.' But no pro-choice plate was ever sought, and Jim Finnegan of Barrington, Illinois, head of Choose Life Illinois, said if enough petitions were signed he would have no objection to a pro-choice plate.

Contacts for the Media:
Tom Brejcha, Thomas More Society of Chicago; 312-782-1680, 312-590-3408 (cell)
Tom Ciesielka, TC Public Relations; 312-422-1333
Jim Finnegan, president, Choose Life Illinois; 847-526-1152
Dan Proft, spokesperson, Choose Life Illinois; 312-575-9500/312-466-6488 (cell)


November 2007 Update

(November 27, 2007)        Illinois 'Choose Life' Plates Go Before U.S. Court of Appeals

'Choose Life' Specialty License Plates Go Before U.S. Court of Appeals Today Three-Judge Panel to Hear Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's Appeal of Lower Court Order to Begin Producing 'Choose Life' Plates

Lawyers for Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, will appear before a three-Judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals this morning at 9 a.m. to urge that a lower court ruling that Illinois begin producing "Choose Life" specialty license plates be overturned. The argument will take place in the appellate courtroom on the 27th floor of the Dirksen Federal Building at 219 South Dearborn Street – the corner of Adams and Dearborn Streets – in downtown Chicago. Each side will argue for twenty minutes before three appellate Judges, whose identities are never disclosed until the morning of the oral argument.

On January 22, 2007, the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, 'choose life' supporters learned that federal district Judge David Coar had granted 'summary judgment' for Choose Life, Inc. which had filed a lawsuit several years ago, together with several Illinois adoption advocates, after years of futile efforts to persuade Secretary Jesse White and the Illinois General Assembly to approve the "Choose Life" specialty plates. Although over 25,000 Illinois citizens had signed petitions for the Choose Life plates, White insisted that special legislation was needed before he could approve or issue the plates. During successive sessions of the Illinois General Assembly the Choose Life plate died in committee as key legislators blocked approval of the pro-adoption plates.

Lawyers from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office have argued before Judge Coar and on appeal that Illinois' refusal to approve Choose Life plates was lawfully based on the 'controversial' nature of the plates' message – the slogan "choose life" and two smiling kids' faces. But Judge Coar found that numerous specialty plates supporting other private causes ("pet friendly," pro-organ donation, environmental and peace birds) had been approved, and he ruled that disapproval of the pro-adoption plate was content-based discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. Judge Coar also found that Secretary White's insistence that he needed to get a new law approving each plate was baseless, as Illinois law vests final authority to issue specialty plates in the Secretary, without need of any new law. The State was ordered to approve the Choose Life plate, and on working out minor details to begin producing and selling them.

On appeal the Attorney General's office has argued that government may discriminate as to which messages it will approve as license plates constitute "government speech," not private speech, and that the government may censor its own speech. In a Tennessee case brought by ACLU lawyers, another U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with Illinois' contention, ruling two years ago that plates do convey government speech. Thus if the Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago agrees with Judge Coar, there will be a "split in the Circuits" that could catapult this case one step higher – up to the U.S. Supreme Court – as this same issue has arisen in many other courts around the country.

"We are confident and indeed hopeful that Judge Coar's ruling in favor of the Choose Life specialty plates will be affirmed on appeal as his decision was squarely based on First Amendment law," states Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society of Chicago, a public interest law firm representing the Choose Life plaintiffs. "And moreover, the stakes couldn't be any higher as a win for 'choose life' will help thousands of kids find homes with loving families throughout our entire State of Illinois!"

A decision by the Court of Appeals will be expected sometime early next year.

Contact: Tom Brejcha
Source: Thomas More Society
Publish Date: November 27, 2007


February 2007 Update

(February 26, 2007)        When Judge Coar handed down his decision ordering that the Secretary of State must issue a "choose life" specialty license plate, which was made public last January 22, 2007, he also entered a "stay" (suspension) of enforcement for thirty (30) days because, he said, his ruling was a "case of first impression" here in the midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) that fall within the jurisdiction of the '7th Circuit' U.S. Court of Appeals.  Attorneys from the office of the Illinois Attorney General went back into Judge Coar's courtroom two weeks ago asking that Judge Coar reconsider and reverse his ruling, and further requesting that this "stay" be extended beyond 30 days until he had passed on their motion to reconsider.  Judge Coar very abruptly denied the motion to reconsider on the spot.  And he also denied the Attorney General's motion to extend the "stay " order past 30 days, so that it was due to expire last week -- on February 21, 2007, Ash Wednesday.

But then the Attorney General filed a Notice of Appeal on February 14th, taking the case up to the Court of Appeals.  Having done this, they then went back into Judge Coar's court and asked him to continue the stay indefinitely, pending the resolution of the appeal.  We asked for time to respond to this request, urging that the Attorney General had not made out a sufficient case for such a long "stay," which could continue for as long as a year or more.  Judge Coar said there was no need for our filing any papers in opposition to this extended "stay," because he was going to grant it.  He commented that it was a significant matter whenever a federal court would order state officials to take certain action and that the appellate court should pass on his ruling before it went into effect.  

We believe, however, that this stay should be vacated, as the First Amendment rights of Illinois citizens have now been infringed, as a matter of law.  Such infringement of fundamental constitutional rights constitutes "irreparable injury," and should not be permitted to continue any longer.  The overwhelming weight of legal authority supports Judge Coar's ruling for the "choose life" specialty license plates, on the merits.  If the "stay" were lifted, the Secretary of State would suffer no legally cognizable harm commensurate with the harm inflicted by the "stay" through denial of citizens' rights.  The process for approving the design and initating the manufacture of any new specialty plate reportedly takes several months, according to the Secretary's own officials.  So, there is no reason for further delay in beginning that process.  "Choose life" plates are already on Illinois roads, borne on vehicles from the many oth er states where these plates have been approved.  They have posed no safety or other law enforcement problems. 

Thus we will be moving very shortly to vacate Judge Coar's "stay" order.  If he adheres to his "stay" order, we will take an expedited appeal from that ruling.  We will ask the Court of Appeals either to direct that the "stay" order be vacated, or at least to expedite the adjudication of the appeal from Judge Coar's ruling on the merits in favor of the "choose life" specialty plates.  In any event, we remain very optimistic about the outcome of the Secretary's appeal.  Stay tuned for reports of further developments! 

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel, attorney for Choose Life Illinois, Inc.
Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm
29 South LaSalle Street, Suite 440, Chicago, Illinois 60603, 312-782-1680 

(February 8, 2007)         Good news from Judge Coar as this morning he denied Jesse White's motion asking that he reverse or amend his prior ruling.  We were prepared to ask for time to respond to that motion, but no response was needed.  The Judge already had made up his mind.  As for the further request for a continuation of the stay of Judge Coar's order that the state start producing the choose life plate within 30 days from his ruling, the Judge pointed out that the stay already had been granted -- i.e., 30 days is enough for now.  That period will expire on February 21st, less than two weeks hence.  As for any continuation of the stay beyond that date, Judge Coar told the Assistant Attorney Generals who appeared in court this morning that they should come back in and make application for further stay upon filing their appeal, if they're going to appeal.  [response to Judge David Coar's February 8, 2007 ruling reaffirming his decision in favor of Choose Life license plates in Illinois.  The complete press release follows.]

IMMEDIATE RELEASE  Contact: Tom Brejcha, Thomas More Society, Chicago

February 8, 2007  Tel. 312-782-1680 ofc; 312-590-3408 cell 



 Secretary of State is Foiled Again in

Free Speech Battle With Pro-Adoption Organization

Chicago—This morning a federal district judge denied a motion by the Secretary of State to overturn his recent ruling that allowed “Choose Life” to be a slogan on Illinois specialty license plates.  On January 22, Federal Judge David Coar had ruled in favor of Choose Life Illinois plaintiffs in their lawsuit against Jesse White, explaining that their message was protected by the First Amendment and entitled to be on the plates.  Judge Coar had stayed enforcement of the January ruling for 30 days, and when White’s lawyers – from the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – sought to extend that stay beyond its scheduled expiration date of February 21, Judge Coar declined to do so, saying he might consider extending the stay if White pursued a further appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals from this trial court ruling in favor of the “Choose Life” plates.

Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel at Chicago’s Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm representing the non-profit group, Choose Life Illinois, Inc., hailed Judge Coar’s latest ruling as another strong endorsement of his clients’ First Amendment rights.  “This isn’t rocket science, but rather a plain and simple application of rudimentary First Amendment principles,” Brejcha said.  “Once you open up state license plates as a public forum where citizens can set up their soap boxes and promote their private causes – ranging from peace plates, environmental plates, pet friendly plates to plates for Masons and Knights of Columbus – you can’t constitutionally suppress the rights of over 25,000 Illinois citizens who signed petitions for Choose Life to promote the cause of adoption and raise funds to support young women who choose to bear their infants and give them the priceless gift of life in loving, adoptive families.” 

Jesse White’s spokesmen recently faulted the Choose Life group for failing to follow the usual procedure of getting a bill passed in the General Assembly.  Brejcha responded to this allegation stating, “Judge Coar ruled that Illinois law gives the Secretary of State himself full authority to approve or reject specialty plates.  Secretary White can’t lawfully pass the buck to the General Assembly, as if legislators should be casting votes as grand inquisitors or censors approving some causes, disapproving others.   Every American has the right to stand on his or her soap box and promote a cherished cause, unless it’s obscene, or threatening, or fighting words, or an incitement to violence. If those who oppose adoption or advocate against choosing life want to petition for their own specialty plate, more power to them – this is still a free country!”

Jim Finnegan, retired business executive and president of Choose Life Illinois, said that he and his fellow board members, including Mrs. Virginia McCaskey of the Chicago Bears, “look forward to the day when Illinois drivers may help more children find loving homes by buying these plates, whose proceeds will be earmarked only for agencies supporting adoption.”

Other Choose Life plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Phyllis Finnegan of Barrington, adoption advocate; Richard and Sue Bergquist of Naperville, parents of eleven children, nine of whom are adopted, six with special needs.  Also:  Dan and Sandy Gura of Lake Zurich, adoptive parents; Becky McDougall of Sunny Ridge Family Center in Wheaton, an adoptive mom; Tom and Bethany Morrison, adoption advocates; Dan Proft, himself an adoptee; Richard and Jill Stanek of Mokena, adoption advocates; and Joe and Carol Walsh, directors of Aid for Women of Northern Lake County, a crisis pregnancy center in Waukegan. In addition, the Rev. Scott and Janet Willis, who lost their six children in a tragic fire following a collision with an illegally licensed Illinois truck driver, are adoption advocates and Choose Life supporters but they didn't join the suit as they had relocated to Tennessee before its filing in 2004.       

Contacts for the Media

Tom Brejcha, Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society, 312-590-3408 cell, 312-782-1680 office

Andrew Schadegg, TC Public Relations: 312-422-1333


January 2007 Update

(January 22, 2007)         Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society stated, “We applaud Judge Coar’s decision as a ringing endorsement of the First Amendment rights of all Illinois citizens and as very welcome news for the cause of adoption in Illinois.  Many more children will enjoy the gift of life in loving families thanks to Judge Coar’s ruling.”  [response to news of Judge David Coar's January 19, 2007 ruling in favor of Choose Life license plates in Illinois.   The complete press release follows.]

For Immediate Release             Contact: Andrew Schadegg,

January 22, 2007                                                                               312-422-1333         

 Choose Life Illinois Wins Lawsuit Against

Secretary of State to Make Pro-Adoption Plates Available to the Public

 Choose Life Board Member and Bears Owner Virginia McCaskey Scores Another Big Win

Chicago—On Friday, a ruling was handed down from the Northern Illinois District Court allowing the pro-adoption message “Choose Life” to be an option for specialty license plates in the State of Illinois.  Citing First Amendment protection, Judge David Coar ruled in favor of Choose Life Illinois (CLI), explaining that their message is constitutionally entitled to be on Illinois license plates. In Judge Coar’s Memorandum it states that “…the Secretary of State is ordered to issue the ‘Choose Life’ plates.”  CLI, a pro-adoption organization, had filed the lawsuit against the Secretary of State, Jesse White, claiming that the process by which the “Choose Life” specialty license plate was disapproved in Illinois was “viewpoint discriminatory” in violation of the First Amendment and, therefore, unconstitutional. 

CLI also stated that certain members of the Illinois General Assembly had demonstrated anti-adoption prejudice during the last two legislative sessions by placing political roadblocks in the way of a bill that would have added the “Choose Life” specialty license plate to the 60 specialty plate options currently available to Illinois citizens.

Prior to the courts ruling, CLI had received over 25,000 signatures from private citizens, petitioning the legislature to allow the “Choose Life” message.  Illinois adoption advocate, Jim Finnegan, is head of the group that filed the lawsuit.  In addition, Chicago Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, who is a member of the Choose Life Board of Directors, was also one of the fifteen plaintiffs in the case.

Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society, states, “We applaud Judge Coar’s decision as a ringing endorsement of the First Amendment rights of all Illinois citizens and as very welcome news for the cause of adoption in Illinois. Many more children will enjoy the gift of life in loving families thanks to Judge Coar’s ruling.”  Proceeds from the sale of the specialty plates will go to pro-adoption groups.

Working with Brejcha on the case were co-counsel, Christopher Henning, also of Thomas More Society in Chicago, and attorneys Alan Untereiner and Damon Taaffe of the Washington, D.C. law firm, Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck & Untereiner, LLP, and Tim Kelly of the south suburban Chicago law firm, Appel & Kelly, Ltd.


 Contacts for the Media

Tom Brejcha, Esq., Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society:312-590-3408 cell, 312-782-1680 ofc

Andrew Schadegg, TC Public Relations: 312-422-1333

 About The Thomas More Society

            The Thomas More Society is a non-profit, public interest law firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  It was founded in 1997 to meet the burgeoning legal needs of the pro-life movement. The Thomas More Society provides legal advice and assistance to those who face harassment, employment discrimination, unjust treatment, civil litigation or criminal prosecution as a result of their pro-life views or their peaceful protest activities.  In the last three years, Thomas More Society has scored two decisive victories before the U.S. Supreme Court in representing the named petitioners in the marathon, nationwide federal class action involving use of  the federal racketeering (RICO), extortion and antitrust law against abortion protesters (Scheidler v. NOW, 537 U.S. 393, 411 (2003), and Scheidler v. NOW, 125 S.Ct. 2991 (2006)).  In addition, the Society has filed numerous 'friend of the Court' briefs in the Supreme Court. More recently, the Society submitted a brief for an Illinois pro-life coalition successfully urging the Illinois Supreme Court to issue procedural rules to allow implementation of Illinois’ parental notification law of 1995.


December 2006 Update

(December 19, 2006)         Judge Coar's schedule seems painfully leisured...  Maybe next year??  

February 2006 Update

(February 6, 2006)         You may recall that Judge Coar set a trial date of January 2006, “engraved in stone,” to hear the federal lawsuit filed by Illinois Choose Life, Inc.  The lawsuit charged that the legislative process to approve specialty license plates in the State of Illinois is discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional. 

After determination there were no disputes about the facts in the case, that trial date (to resolve fact issues) was canceled.  Now the cross motions for summary judgment filed by Illinois Choose Life and the Secretary of State are under advisement by the judge.  Judge Coar must evaluate the arguments from each side regarding the law so he can make his ruling in the case.

Thomas Brejcha
Thomas More Society

December 2005 Update

(December 10, 2005)      In order to raise funds and promote adoptions in Illinois, Illinois Choose Life, Inc., a not-for-profit tax exempt entity, secured some 35,000 signatures statewide on petitions in a vain effort to win approval of a "Choose Life" specialty license plate by Illinois' Secretary of State, who has approved numerous other specialty license plates promoting other political causes (e.g., environment, peace, fighting cancer, etc.) and even some religious groups (e.g., the Knights of Columbus).  While the "Choose Life" application met (and indeed, far exceeded) all politically neutral criteria for approval of specialty plates, the Secretary of State abdicated his statutory responsibility to approve or deny the plate and deferred the matter to the Illnois General Assembly, which failed to act at all on, let alone approve, the "Choose Life" plate.

As a result, Illinois Choose Life, Inc., together with its directors and steering committee members, have filed a federal court lawsuit seeking a court order mandating issuance of a "Choose Life" plate and/or invalidating the current Illinois procedure subjecting specialty license plate applications to the functional equivalent of a "political veto," which renders the entire procedure an unconstitutional form of state censorship over the expression of political views in a public forum -- i.e., "viewpoint discrimination" in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

Currently a summary judgment motion, seeking a final judgment "on paper," has been filed by Illinois Choose Life, Inc. and the private plaintiffs, and the Secretary of State, represented by the Illinois Attorney General's office, has filed a counter motion for summary judgment, and both motions remain under advisement and awaiting decision by U.S. District Judge David Coar in Chicago.

Thomas Brejcha
Thomas More Society


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