Ga. lawyers raise license plate concerns

Jan. 11, 2013 at 3:18 PM

ATLANTA, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Georgia lawyers specializing in freedom of speech issues say the state government may be too vague in how it chooses which vanity license plates to reject.

Cynthia Counts, an Atlanta lawyer, said having dozens of employees in charge of checking applications for specialty plates makes the process of choosing which plates are inappropriate to approve imprecise, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday.

For example, the Georgia Department of Revenue rejected a plate reading "MSSEXI" but approved "S0SEXY1."

"That's going to be what hurts them the most," Counts said. "To limit speech the government has to show a compelling interest. How in the world are they achieving any purpose if they're deciding it arbitrarily?"

Bruce Brown, an Atlanta lawyer who also specializes in free speech issues, agreed with Counts.

"The headache is making constitutional decisions about what can be displayed and what can't be. It's too hard to do. They don't appear like they're doing it right now," he told the newspaper.

Vicki Lambert, the Department of Revenue's director of local government services and the motor vehicle division, said the inconsistency is due to the large number of employees.

"Whether it's a good answer or not, at different times we've had different people in the reviewing process," Lambert said to the Journal-Constitution.

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