I am grateful to a reader for making sure I did not miss the ruling yesterday of the Supreme Court of Louisiana in Louisiana v. Hill, No. 2020-KA-00323 (La. Oct. 20, 2020) (available here). The start of the majority opinion captures its essence:
This case involves the constitutionality of a statutory requirement that persons convicted of sex offenses carry an identification card branded with the words “SEX OFFENDER.” This obligation is included as part of a comprehensive set of registration and notification requirements imposed on sex offenders in Louisiana. Other states (and the federal government) have enacted similar collections of laws. However, the specific requirement to carry a branded identification card distinguishes Louisiana from the rest of the country. Forty-one other states do not require any designation on the identification cards of sex offenders.
For the reasons below, we find that this requirement constitutes compelled speech and does not survive a First Amendment strict scrutiny analysis. Thus, we uphold the trial court’s ruling striking this specific requirement as unconstitutional and quashing the prosecution of defendant for altering his identification card to conceal the “SEX OFFENDER” designation.
The lone dissenting vote was by Justice Crain, who wrote a short dissenting opinion that starts this way:
The majority finds it unconstitutional to require a convicted sex offender to be identified as such on a government-issued identification card. Louisiana Revised Statutes 40:1321J requires a registered sex offender to procure a special identification card that includes the words “sex offender” in all capital, orange letters. That phrase is the speech at issue. It is not First Amendment protected speech. The speaker is the government: the words are stamped by a governmental agency on a government-issued identification card in accordance with a government-enacted statute. This is the embodiment of government speech.