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Nevada man sues DMV over rejection of ‘GOPALIN’ license plate

Updated Monday, July 18, 2011 | 12:11 p.m.

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A Nevada man has filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles alleging his rights were violated when he says the state denied his requests for personalized license plates with conservative political themes.

James Linlor, a Douglas County resident, filed the complaint July 15 in U.S. District Court in Nevada. A state official said the plate eventually was issued late last year.

The complaint alleges Linlor requested a personalized license plate of “GOPALIN” in 2009 and 2010, but the DMV denied his applications, stating the request was "vulgar or obscene or expressing superiority of political affiliation."

Linlor says he tried again in June 2010 — this time requesting “PALIN,” “PALIN12” or “PALIN16.” The DMV’s Special Plates Committee, which reviews applications, again denied his requests, deeming them inappropriate because they were “political,” according to the complaint.

According to the Nevada Administrative Code, the DMV rejects personalized license plates with any combination of letters, numbers or spaces that “express contempt, ridicule or superiority of ... political affiliation.” It can also deny plates it deems “inappropriate.”

After a hearing before an administrative law judge, the lawsuit claims the judge reversed the DMV’s denial of Linlor’s requests for plates with “PALIN,” “PALIN12” and “PALIN16.” The judge determined the DMV wasn't authorized to deny requests simply because they were “political,” according to the complaint.

Despite the judge’s decision, the complaint alleges the DMV again denied Linlor’s request for a “GOPALIN” plate. Meanwhile, Linlor discovered the DMV had issued other politics-related license plates, including “GOGREEN,” “DMOCRAT,” “AL GORE,” “KERRY,” “EDWARDS,” “DEAN,” “HILLARY” and “RONPAUL,” while rejecting requests for “REPBLCN” and “BUSH,” the complaint alleges.

When Linlor applied for a “GO OBAMA” plate, the DMV approved it, he alleges.

“The actions of the DMV in selectively granting some ‘political’ license plate requests while denying others are unconstitutional on grounds of content and viewpoint discrimination, and should be enjoined as a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” according to the complaint.

Bruce Breslow, director of the Nevada DMV, said Monday he’s not sure why Linlor brought a lawsuit this month because the “GOPALIN” plate was issued Dec. 30, 2010.

The DMV, however, is reviewing its policy about personalized license plates and likely will have the director or a deputy director make decisions about whether to approve such requests in the future, he said.

“I would not have denied it,” Breslow said, referring to the “GOPALIN” plate.

The complaint seeks injunctive relief from the DMV as well as the cost of attorneys’ fees.

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