Trials & Litigation

Jayhawks fan wins pro se license-plate appeal, can keep slogan disparaging rivals, court rules

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Once upon a time, the word “sucks” was considered unprintable.

But in recent decades it has simply become a synonym for “subpar,” a Missouri man argued, relying on the dictionary for support. On Tuesday, the Missouri Court of Appeals effectively agreed, deferring to an administrative hearing commission’s ruling on the merits last year that Toby Gettler could keep his “MZU SUX’ license plate, reports the Associated Press.

The state’s revenue department initially issued the plate in 2009 to Gettler, a fan of the University of Kansas Jayhawks, who are rivals of the University of Missouri Tigers. But they then tried to recall it, on the grounds that “sux” was an obscenity that denoted a sexual act, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

“It’s pretty obvious that I’m using it in a fashion that demonstrates my belief that Missouri’s athletic program is more subpar than anything else,” Gettler told KCTV last year, reports the Daily Tribune.

The Western District of the appeals court held that there was an adequate basis for the revenue department’s ruling in favor of Gettler and said it would not substitute its own opinion, “although another fact finder may have found otherwise,” reports Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

Gettler, who represented himself in the appeal, said it was by chance that he applied for the plate. The application required five options and he had only four in mind. “For the last one, just to be funny, I put ‘MZU SUX,’” he said. “It turns out, that’s actually the license plate I got.”

When Gettler drove to the Kansas City appellate hearing in the car with the at-issue license plate, he was in a location that was–as the legal publication puts it–“the fault line of the KU-MU rivalry.” Yet he came and went unscathed.

“I’ve had the plates four years, and I think I’ve gotten the bird twice, maybe three times,” he said.

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