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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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