Related topics

Winemaker in Court Over Vanity Plate

March 11, 2002

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Wine maker Michael Paul Higgins is whining about his license plate.

Oregon’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division has rejected his request to have WINE, VINO or IN VINO as a vanity plate, a move Higgins says violates his constitutional right to free speech.

``Why shouldn’t people be able to put anything on a vanity plate that they can put on a bumper sticker?″ he asks.

The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in his case Thursday.

Experts say a victory by Higgins would eliminate virtually any restrictions on vanity plates, forcing Oregon officials to choose between allowing nasty words and scrapping a program that raises about $1.5 million a year for litter patrol.

Higgins’ request for the plates was first denied in 1996 and an appeal lost the next year.

In 2000, a divided Oregon Court of Appeals sided with the DMV, saying vanity plates were not the speech of the motorist who requested them, but of the government, which owns the plates.

Higgins, 65, said the reasoning is ludicrous.

``If someone walks down the street and swears up a blue streak, it doesn’t make us think that the state approves it because it’s a public street,″ he said last week.