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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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