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Justices: BMV can require names to match SSA records

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The trial court was correct to find that the public interest in preventing fraudulent use of driver’s licenses trumps some people’s desire to have their commonly used names on their licenses, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.

Attorney Lyn Leone and others who received letters from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles alerting them that their names didn’t match records on file with the Social Security Administration sued to prevent the BMV from invalidating their licenses until the names matched in both agencies’ records. They claimed the BMV overstepped its statutory authority by redefining the meaning of “legal name” to exclude anything but that which is on file with the SSA. The trial court denied their preliminary injunction; the Indiana Court of Appeals granted a preliminary injunction as a stay, pending appeal.

In Lyn Leone, et al. v. Commissioner, BMV, No. 49S02-0910-CV-505, the justices dissolved that preliminary injunction, finding that those people whose names in BMV and SSA records don’t match could rectify the matter by just making sure the records match. They could do so by changing their licenses to reflect the same name on record with the SSA, or they could change their name with the SSA.

Under common law, a person may lawfully change his or her name without resorting to any legal proceedings where it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others and isn’t done for a fraudulent purpose. Indiana has required courts to effect a name change, and based on In re Hauptly, 262 Ind. 150, 312 N.E.2d 857 (1974), courts must grant a name change where no evidence of fraud exists, but this doesn’t mean the state has to recognize an informal common-law name change, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

“The modern tendency toward use of government-issued identification in both private and public settings may shrink the field governed by the common law, but both common law and statutory processes have long coexisted with respect to names, as they do in other fields of law. Statutes obliging citizens to engage in some formality when they invoke government processes by applying for benefits or identification cards neither obliterate common-law usage nor are they driven by them,” he wrote.

Also, the SSA has become the “custodian” of basic identifying information and almost all state governments rely on this information to verify identities, he continued. The BMV is within its authority to depend on the SSA to maintain verifiable names since the General Assembly requires a name and Social Security number to receive a license.

The justices also ruled the plaintiffs’ due process rights weren’t violated. The letters they received from the BMV regarding the name discrepancies told them there was a name change, that the situation needed to be rectified, what documents were needed to fix the problem, and barring that, licenses would be revoked. They also agreed that Indiana has legitimate interests in both the integrity of its records and in protecting its citizens against fraud and identity theft.

“We cannot say that the Bureau’s requirement that Appellants, at most, petition for a name change, take the court order to Social Security for a change in its records, and provide the Bureau documentation of Social Security’s change constitutes a burden so unreasonable as to be unconstitutional. The arrangement does rationally advance the legitimate state interest of preventing identity theft. Whether it might if harshly administered run afoul of due process is a question for another day,” wrote the chief justice.
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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