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. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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