Man Urges Court to Toss Overly Personal Tickets
CHICAGO (CN) - A Illinois man who says his village violates privacy rights by printing residents' personal information on parking tickets asked the 7th Circuit on Monday to schedule a rehearing en banc after a divided panel shot down his multimillion-dollar class action.
The split panel decision filed July 11 affirmed dismissal of Jason Senne's proposed class action against the village of Palatine, which fined Senne $20 for leaving his vehicle in a parking space overnight.
Senne had claimed that the village's ticketing policy violates the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which makes it unlawful to disclose personal information contained in a motor vehicle record.
Tickets list the vehicle owner's name, address, driver's license number, date of birth, sex, height and weight. Citations also double as an envelope, with the personal information appearing on the outside.
Though the federal appeals court found that leaving a ticket on a driver's windshield did count as a personal information "disclosure" under the act, it ruled that the village's actions were protected by an exception for uses in connection with civil, criminal, administrative or arbitral proceedings.
In so ruling, the court rejected Senne's argument that the exception should not apply because the personal information on the citation does not aid service.
"This [is] an example of a common thread that runs through Senne's brief; he argues variously that the village's practice is unnecessary, foolish, and a 'poor security practice,'" Judge Joel Flaum wrote for the majority. "That may be, but Congress is free to use language broad enough to permit all those things. ... The statute does not ask whether the service of process reveals no more information than necessary to effect service, and so neither do we."
The court also rejected Senne's alternative claim that the information was unlawfully disclosed when payments were mailed, finding that the individual, not the village, was responsible for that disclosure.
"In this case, the person who would be on the hook for the redisclosure is Senne -and we cannot entertain a lawsuit between him and himself," the majority opinion states.
An impassioned partial dissent by Judge Kenneth Ripple state, however, that the disclosure of unnecessary personal information was precisely what Congress intended to prevent.
"We should not ascribe to Congress the intent to sanction the publication of any and all personal information through the invocation of an exception," Ripple wrote. "Rather, we should follow the manifest intent of the statute that such disclosures be limited to those that are reasonable in effectuating the purpose of that exception. ... To attribute any other intent from the text or the structure of the statute is to infer that Congress deliberately intended to frustrate the very purpose of the statue."
The consequences of this case may prove disastrous, Ripple predicted.
"Under the majority's opinion, an individual seeking to stalk or rape can go down a street where overnight parking is banned and collect the home addresses and personal information of women whose vehicles have been tagged and their personal information left for him to see," the dissent states.
"The police, in derogation of the explicit intent of Congress, effectively has done his work for him in identifying potential victims," Ripple added.
After applauding police departments that have abandoned this ticketing practice, Ripple mused that the July 11 opinion will stymie other departments' progress in the area.
"The risk here is that less sophisticated police departments, more prone to bureaucratic convenience than public safety concerns, will take shelter in today's decision, and, consequently, their communities will incur horrendous crimes of violence that would not otherwise have occurred," he concluded.