Photo: Scott (flickr)
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles will ask the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn a lower court order to restart the state‘s personalized license plate program.
BMV Commissioner Don Snemis says a notice of appeal will ask the justices to overturn the ruling of Marion County Superior Court Judge James Osborn in May.
The ruling said the BMV violated the First Amendment rights of some of those whose personalized plates had been denied. Among them was Greenfield police officer Rodney Vawter, whose plate read “0INK,” which he said was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his profession.
“We feel the need to appeal and ask the Supreme Court to hold that (the program) is indeed constitutional,” said Snemis.
Snemis‘s main objection is with Judge Osborn‘s rewriting of the guidelines used by the BMV to determine which personalized plates are proper.
“We think that the agency should be the one to write rules. We think the Legislature should be the one to pass the laws, and that the courts are not well equipped to handle that,” Snemis said.
The attorney who argued against the BMV says the judge wrote the guidelines because the old guidelines appeared to be applied at random.
“We‘re using standards that clearly violate the First Amendment, leading to the inexplicable granting or denying of license plates that has been well documented,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana.
For example, the BMV rejected a “SXY” plate but allowed a plate that read “BIGGSXY.”
The BMV will also ask the state Supreme Court to delay Judge Osborn‘s ruling until it‘s appeal plays out.
“It would take a lot of work for us to reinstitute the program, and we don‘t think it makes a lot of sense to go forward with the program until this cloud that was created by the finding of unconstitutionality of the statute is cleared,” Snemis said.