By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) - A New Hampshire man who last year changed his name to "human" has gone to the state's top court to defend his right to a vanity plate that insults police: COPSLIE.
The man formerly known as David Montenegro argued in state Supreme Court on Thursday that denying him the plate is a violation of his right to free speech.
The man, an unemployed accountant, made his request for the COPSLIE vanity plate in 2010, but was instead given one bearing his alternative choice of GR8GOVT.
"The Division of Motor Vehicles has a regulation which prohibits vanity license plates containing messages which the DMV believes a reasonable person would find offensive to good taste. That regulation does not meet constitutional standards," human told a local CBS affiliate after the hearing.
New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Richard Head, who argued on behalf of the DMV at the hearing, said the agency was within its authority to deny the vanity plate request.
"The primary purpose of a plate is to identify motor vehicles, not to engage in public debate," he said in a phone interview.
"A statement against an individual would be defamatory. In this case the plate would have insulted an entire class of workers," he said.
The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union has sided with human. It called the DMV's standard on vanity plates "unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, and viewpoint discriminatory," according to court filings.
The court is expected to rule on the case by early next year.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)