As far as the State of New York is concerned, Cosmo Kramer is the “assman” when he is given that license plate by the New York DMV. But could a State really force someone to have a license plate they don’t want?
The truth is, whether you’re Wilt Chamberlain, a Proctologist, or just some guy with a big ass, a State can not force you to have a license plate on your vehicle that goes against a person’s morality. This was decided in the 1977 case Wooley v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court determined that drivers did not have to bear the New Hampshire State motto “Live Free or Die,” on their license plates, as it violated driver’s First Amendment right against mandated speech. So no matter how many Sallys Kramer dates, or how often passersby call him “assman” (for stopping short with Estelle?), the Sate of New York actually has no concern on whether Kramer is or is not the assman.
But let’s ask the flip question as well. Obviously, Frank’s proctologist actually is the assman. Could the State of New York say that the “million to one shot” Doc is prohibited from getting “assman” put as his vanity license plate? Believe it or not, the Supreme Court answered this very question in the 2015 case Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, answered this very question. Sort of.
In that case, a Texas group wanted to have the Confederate Flag placed on their license plates. But the state of Texas uncomfortably shifted in their seats and told them to stick the fusilli up their… well you get the drift. So, naturally, they sued. The case went to the Supreme Court, who thought the petitioner’s case was pretty fusilli and sided with the State of Texas. Essentially, the Court ruled that since the group could put their message (the Confederate flag in this case) on a bumper sticker directly next to the license plate, the State was not infringing on free speech by preventing the Confederate Flag from being placed directly on the license plate. Furthermore, since license plates concern Government speech, if Texas did allow the flag on the license plate it could be viewed as the State’s endorsement of the confederate flag! The Court wanted to fully stop short on that idea. (For further research, check out the “I Believe” case in Summers v. Adams)
So back to the question. Could New York prohibit the Proctologist from getting “assman” vanity plates? As far as the writers of Seinfeld Law are concerned, yes. The Supreme Court did hold that license plates are considered government speech, and therefore the State can decide whether or not it wants to speak in a certain way. So if you’re shaped like a piece of ravioli, the DMV is going to “pull a Frank” on you and stop short.
But what do you think? Could New York deny the “assman” vanity plates? Where’s the line you would draw on what can or can not be put on a license plate?