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. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  2. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  3. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

  4. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  5. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

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