Ninth Circuit Refuses to Rehear Honking-As-Speech Case

Attorneys Considering Appeal Before U.S. Supreme Court


San Rafael, Calif. – On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear Porter v. Martinez, the case that challenges a California law banning the expressive use of car horns.

In October 2017, Susan Porter was cited for violating Section 27001 of California’s Vehicle Code after honking in solidarity with fellow protesters who were demonstrating outside of U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa’s San Diego-area district office. 

The following can be attributed to David Loy, Legal Director, First Amendment Coalition:

“The First Amendment should protect the American tradition of supporting protests by honking your car horn. We are disappointed that a split Ninth Circuit panel held otherwise and the full court did not take the opportunity to review the decision. We will look closely at whether to seek review by the Supreme Court.”

Originally filed in June 2018, the federal lawsuit asserts a First Amendment right to freedom of expression through horn use. In February 2021, the district court ruled in favor of the government, finding Section 27001 is a permissible, content-neutral regulation. On appeal before a panel of the Ninth Circuit, Porter’s attorneys argued that the statute is a content-based ban on expressive horn use that must be subject to strict scrutiny, the highest level of judicial review of government restrictions on protected speech. And even if it were subject to the less stringent intermediate level of scrutiny, enforcement of the statute in Porter’s case would not pass constitutional muster, her attorneys argued.

In April 2023, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against our client. We immediately sought a rehearing from the full Ninth Circuit. 

Read the petition for rehearing en banc.

Read a Q&A about this case with FAC Legal Director David Loy.