New Brunswick

Court of Appeal rejects bid to revoke DUI DR licence plate

New Brunswick's registrar of motor vehicles has lost a court challenge that would have allowed him to revoke the personalized licence plates of a Moncton lawyer who specializes in defending people charged with impaired driving.

Registrar of motor vehicles loses attempt to have judge's earlier ruling overturned

Moncton lawyer Wendall Maxwell's personalized license plate (CBC)

New Brunswick's registrar of motor vehicles has lost a court challenge that would have allowed him to revoke the personalized licence plates of a Moncton lawyer who specializes in defending people charged with impaired driving.

Registrar Chris O'Connell initially authorized the seizure of Wendell Maxwell's vanity plate DUI DR in January 2015, saying they had been "erroneously" issued in 2008.

Maxwell sought a judicial review of that action in court and won. In June 2015, the application judge said the seizure of the vanity plates amounted to a breach of procedural fairness and was unreasonable because there was no evidence presented to provide a basis for the decision. O'Connell was ordered to return the plates to Maxwell and pay $5,000 in court costs to Maxwell.

O'Connell appealed that ruling to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, but his appeal was dismissed in a ruling released Aug. 4 and O'Connell was ordered to pay an additional $3,000 in costs to Maxwell.

The appeal court said the application judge was correct to conclude the registrar acted unreasonably in revoking the personalized licence plates.

The application judge reviewed the record and was satisfied the plates were not "erroneously issued" in 2008 and there was no rational or acceptable reasoning to find they were "erroneously" issued.

On Nov. 24, 2014, O'Connell received a written complaint about Maxwell's vanity plates and two other complaints from MADD Canada and MADD's chapter for the Fredericton area.

O'Connell made the decision to revoke the plates on the following day.

On Nov. 28, 2014, the registrar sent Maxwell a letter advising the plates had been "erroneously issued" and requested he return the plates to the Department of Public Safety within 14 days.

Maxwell did not return the plates and the registrar authorized the seizure of the plates in January 2015.

On Feb. 25, 2015, a letter from Public Safety Minister Stephen Horsman was forwarded to Maxwell in which the minister stated he supported the registrar's decision to revoke the licence plates.

The Court of Appeal ruling also agreed with the application judge's finding the process wasn't fair to Maxwell.

"The registrar chose to proceed, and deliver a ruling, without providing any due process to Mr. Maxwell. The analysis above confirms the application judge's brief analysis in his oral reasons for decision that, at the bare minimum, Mr. Maxwell was owed the opportunity to state his position with knowledge of the case against him, and to receive a fair hearing."

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