ILNews

Appeal likely in license-plate fee suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals will likely be asked to consider whether the Hoosier license plates proclaiming "In God We Trust" violate the state constitution regarding the fees not attached for motorists.

Following a ruling released Thursday by Marion Superior Judge Gary Miller, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana plans to appeal on behalf of a Fort Wayne man who sued over the plate a year ago.

At issue in Mark E. Studler v. Indiana BMV, No. 49D05-0704-PL-016603, was the $15 administrative fee that isn't charged for the plate but is charged for those designated as "specialty" plates. From the beginning, the ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said this suit was about equity and fairness, not about religion.

The suit alleged that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles gave preferential treatment to the 1.6 million motorists wanting the "In God We Trust" plates because they weren't charged the fee that's collected for many other plates. Studler argued there is no difference between this plate and his specialty environmental plate, for which he has to pay a fee.

But Judge Miller wrote the "In God We Trust" plate is a regular plate similar to the state's "standard" license plate and is not a specialty one, therefore not violating the Indiana Constitution.

Judge Miller determined that no possibility exists for donating to any group, and the BMV isn't required to coordinate design or production with any outside organization, as is the case with specialty plates. There is no special designation created by the new plate; it's all about the production costs, he wrote.

"The Indiana Code makes no such distinction," the judge wrote. "The classification created by the legislature has nothing do with expression. It has to do with drawing generally useful categories based on general assumptions about relative administrative burdens."

He added, "Courts are not to second-guess the Indiana General Assembly when it comes to calculations of this sort."

The judge granted the state's motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiff's in his order dated April 10, but issued this week.

Falk plans to appeal, he told Indiana Lawyer today.
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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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