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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Federal appeals court rejects Louisiana pro-life license plate challenge
Jeannie Shawl at 4:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] rejected a challenge to Louisiana's anti-abortion license plates, saying that federal courts lack jurisdiction in the dispute because the case amounts to a tax dispute that belongs in state court. Abortion rights groups challenged Louisiana's "Choose Life" plate, which are available for an extra fee with the revenue dedicated to agencies that help pregnant women with adoption, as discriminatory because the state does not offer those with other political views a similar way to express them. In its opinion [PDF text], the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court ruling that outlawed the anti-abortion plates and Louisiana's entire system for approving and issuing specialty license plates. The Court wrote "The program diverts excess charges over handling and ordinary registration fees for the plates to organizations endorsed by the legislature. Because of this feature of the program, we conclude that we lack jurisdiction over the case because of the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1341 [text]." Abortion rights lawyer William Rittenberg said that the court is "ducking the issue of whether or not it's viewpoint discrimination and giving the state a device to discriminate." Rittenberg has not decided whether to appeal the decision. AP has more.

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