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January 16
1926 - Newhall Community Hospital, est. 1922, opens in larger, more modern hospital building at 6th & Spruce streets [story]
Newhall Community Hospital


OAKLAND — A federal judge found California’s ban on “offensive” personalized license plates unconstitutional Tuesday, ruling it constitutes viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment.

State regulations require the bureaucracy to refuse configurations that are “offensive to good taste and decency,” based on criteria that include obscene, vulgar, or sexual language, or has “a negative connotation to a specific group.”

Lead plaintiff Paul Ogilvie, a disabled army veteran, sued the DMV in March after it rejected his request for a plate stating “OGWOOLF,” a military nickname that the DMV construed as a reference to gang affiliation. The DMV also rejected a request for a “SLAAYR” plate, paying homage to the California rock band, because it was deemed “threatening, aggressive, or hostile.” A gay man had his request for a “QUEER” plate rejected as well.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar enjoined the “offensive to good taste” provision in his 16-page opinion Tuesday, noting the U.S. Supreme Court has previously shot down laws disfavoring “ideas that offend.”

He pointed to the high court’s 2017 decision in Matal v. Tam, where musician Sam Tam successfully challenged a trademark denial for his band “The Slants,” a name he chose “in order to reclaim and take ownership of stereotypes about people of Asian ethnicity.”

Two years later, the high court invalidated the Lanham Act’s prohibition on “immoral or scandalous” trademark registrations in Iancu v. Brunetti. Citing Tam, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “We hold that this provision infringes the First Amendment for the same reason: It too disfavors certain ideas.”

Tigar referenced both of those cases in his ruling denying the DMV’s motion to dismiss earlier this year when he found personalized license plates are private speech and held that the regulation discriminates on the basis of viewpoint.

He adopted the same reasoning in his latest decision, adding that even if he had found the regulation viewpoint-neutral, it would still be an unreasonable restriction on free speech because it does not provide an “objective, workable standard” for enforcement and is not “capable of reasoned application” under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Minn. Voters All. v. Mansky.

In that case, the court found a Minnesota statute barring political insignia from being worn inside a polling place on election day unreasonable “as its enforcement may turn in significant part on the background knowledge of the particular election judge applying it.”

Tigar likewise found the DMV regulation too subjective to enforce. For example, a ban on the number 69 — with the exception of plates for 1969 vehicle models — was arbitrarily applied. The DMV rejected it as a sexual reference even when applicants explained that 69 was the year when the vehicle was made.

“Because there is no objective, workable standard of what is ‘offensive to good taste and decency,’ different reviewers can reach opposing conclusions on whether a certain configuration should be rejected based on their judgment of what might be ‘offensive’ or not in ‘good taste,’” he wrote.

In an email, the plaintiffs’ attorney Wen Fa of the Pacific Legal Foundation said Tigar’s ruling is a win for free speech.

“The court’s decision vindicates the free speech rights of the 250,000 Californians who seek to express their messages on personalized license plates each year,” Fa wrote. “Vague bans on speech that’s ‘offensive to good taste and decency’ allow bureaucrats to inject their subjective preferences and undermine the rule of law.”

Tigar said his ruling does not prevent the DMV from prohibiting certain words from appearing on personalized license plates, as hate speech and profanity fall outside the scope of the First Amendment. The DMV can still ban those words through a viewpoint-neutral regulation.

The California DMV said it is reviewing Tigar’s ruling.

— By Maria Dinzeo, CNS

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SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Friday, Jan 15, 2021
Pandemic Death Toll Hits 2 Million Worldwide
The death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million on Friday and the World Health Organization warned the global health crisis may get even worse as people weary of restrictions let down their guard and contagious strains of the virus spread around the globe.
Friday, Jan 15, 2021
Residents Mostly Impacted by Power Shutoffs Express Concern Over Ongoing Events
At least once a month, residents of the Cali Lake RV community, nestled in a quiet canyon off a rural part of Soledad Canyon Road, have had their power shut off due to Southern California Edison’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
Friday, Jan 15, 2021
City Council OKs Dedications in Tesoro Area, Newhall Pass Open Space
A future open space trailhead in the Tesoro area will be named after a founding Santa Clarita city councilman, and a portion of land in Newhall after a family who has donated several acres of land to the city for open-space preservation.
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Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1926 - Newhall Community Hospital, est. 1922, opens in larger, more modern hospital building at 6th & Spruce streets [story]
Newhall Community Hospital
The death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million on Friday and the World Health Organization warned the global health crisis may get even worse as people weary of restrictions let down their guard and contagious strains of the virus spread around the globe.
Pandemic Death Toll Hits 2 Million Worldwide
At least once a month, residents of the Cali Lake RV community, nestled in a quiet canyon off a rural part of Soledad Canyon Road, have had their power shut off due to Southern California Edison’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs.
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Late Friday afternoon, a group of parents and student-athletes gathered in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District office to urge the district to bring athletic-conditioning back to school campuses.
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A future open space trailhead in the Tesoro area will be named after a founding Santa Clarita city councilman, and a portion of land in Newhall after a family who has donated several acres of land to the city for open-space preservation.
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The MAIN is set to host eight weeks of free virtual productions from around the world from Jan. 22 through March 12 via Zoom for the Stage on Screen Theatre Fest's International Edition of online theatre.
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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday 287 new deaths and 17,323 new cases of COVID-19, with 20,918 total cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
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Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital announced Thursday the opening of its COVID-19 vaccine-distribution site, with the goal of vaccinating nearly 500 people a day.
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L.A. County Parks can help you achieve your New Year’s goals while bringing L.A. vibes into virtual classes.
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Join the Santa Clarita Artists Association's first meeting of 2021, which will take place virtually Monday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 18: Artist Virginia Kamhi to Demonstrate Pastel Techniques
Get ready to get your game on Sunday, March 14, as Soroptimist International of Valencia presents their annual fundraiser to benefit the Soroptimist’s Dream Programs: Live Your Dream and Dream It, Be It.
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As the COVID-19 surge has continued to overwhelm hospitals over the past couple of months, it has also dramatically impacted the mortuaries where many of the pandemic’s victims end up.
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The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board voted 4-1 to suspend small cohorts returning to campus through Feb. 8.
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The Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding regional areas fell under a red flag warning, prompting Southern California Edison to monitor more than 28,000 of its customers for potential power shutoffs through the remainder of the week.
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