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STOIANOFF v. COMMISSIONER OF MOTOR VEHICLES

August 4, 2000

CARROLL B. STOIANOFF, PLAINTIFF,
V.
COMMISSIONER OF MOTOR VEHICLES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

Defendant, Richard E. Jackson, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles ("Commissioner Jackson") moves pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for an order dismissing plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (the "Complaint") in its entirety. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

Plaintiff pro se, Carroll B. Stoianoff ("plaintiff" or "Stoianoff"), brings this action for declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is that, by requiring him to supply his social security number ("SSN") as a condition to renewing his driver's license, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law ("VTL") § 502(6)(a) violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause and the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) ("FOIA"), the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a) and the Tax Reform Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(i). Plaintiff also asserts state law claims for "bar and waiver" and tortious conversion.

As discussed below, plaintiffs federal statutory and constitutional claims lack merit. First, plaintiff's claims for alleged violation of FOIA and the Privacy Act of 1974 must be dismissed because neither statute provides for a private right of action against a state agency or official. However, even assuming, arguendo, that the Privacy Act of 1974 did permit actions against state agencies, plaintiff's claim fails because an amendment to the Social Security Act (codified as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1976) expressly authorizes States to require disclosure of SSNs in the administration of driver's license programs.

Second, plaintiff's constitutional claims are legally insufficient. The Complaint is devoid of any specific allegations of how Commissioner Jackson or VTL § 502 interfered with or infringed upon plaintiff's First Amendment right to free expression. Plaintiff is not contending that he was subject to an unreasonable search or seizure and he therefore has not stated a claim for violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Privileges and Immunities Clause does not authorize individuals to bring actions against their own states; therefore Mr. Stoianoff, a New York resident challenging a New York statute, has no recourse against the Commissioner under that provision of the Constitution. Finally, the mandatory disclosure of an individual's SSN does not threaten the sanctity of individual privacy so as to require constitutional protection. And Plaintiff's claim for alleged violation of procedural due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment should be dismissed because the legislative determination to amend VTL § 502 and require disclosure of SSNs as a condition to license renewal provided all the process that was due.

Last, because Mr. Stoianoff has failed to state any viable federal claim, this Court declines to exercise pendent jurisdiction over plaintiff's remaining state law claims for bar and waiver and tortious conversion. Instead, I dismiss the First Amended Complaint in its entirety.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On this motion to dismiss, the pertinent facts alleged in the Complaint relating to plaintiff's age, marital status, lack of dependent children and dealings with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") are assumed to be true.

On or about September 26, 1997, plaintiff commenced this action for a judgment (1) declaring that VTL § 502(6)(a) was void and unenforceable and (2) enjoining the Commissioner from refusing to renew plaintiff's license in the absence of a SSN. On or about October 20, 1997, defendant moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of personal and subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (2) and (5).

By Memorandum Decision and Order dated November 16, 1998, this Court granted defendant's motion to dismiss. The Court concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the Commissioner because plaintiff had failed to effect proper service of process. In dicta, the Court remarked that plaintiff's complaint was "frivolous on its face" because the Social Security Act expressly permitted states to collect and use social security numbers for the purpose of administering driver's license laws, and the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law had been amended to conform to federal law.

Plaintiff appealed, and by summary order dated March 16, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals held that the Commissioner had not been properly served, but indicated plaintiff was free to correct the jurisdictional defect by proper service of process on the Commissioner. Although the Court of Appeals acknowledged that plaintiff's allegations of unconstitutionality were frivolous, it chastised this Court for concluding that the complaint was "frivolous on its face" and directed that I determine certain issues of federal statutory law that the panel believed were presented by the Complaint.

On or about April 14, 2000, plaintiff served Commissioner Jackson with a copy of the First Amended Complaint. The Commissioner immediately moved to dismiss the action.

FINDINGS OF LAW

I. Statutory Framework

A. The Privacy Act of 1974

Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974 (the "Privacy Act") in response to increasing concern over the federal government's accumulation of personal information. See Pub.L. No. 93-579, 88 Stat. 1896, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. The Senate Committee Report indicates the Privacy Act was formulated to "safeguard individual privacy" and "promote governmental respect for the privacy of citizens" by requiring departments and agencies of the federal government to observe certain rules and procedures relating to the collection, use and disclosure of an individual's personal information. See S.Rep. No. 1183, 93rd Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1974 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin. News, 6916.

The Privacy Act references FOIA for the applicable definition of the various federal agencies to which it applies. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(f). If a federal agency requires disclosure of an individual's SSN, the agency must inform the individual "whether that disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and what uses will be made of it." 5 U.S.C. § 552a [reprinted in annotations].

A prohibition in the Privacy Act precluding federal, state or local government agencies from denying benefits or privileges to an individual based on that individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number appears in the historical annotations to the statute. See 5 U.S.C. § 552a. This provision of the Privacy Act was never codified. Because of the "lack of ready independent data about the probable costs and effects of such a prohibition," the section was deleted in Committee. See S.Rep. No. 1183, 93rd Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1974 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin. News, 6943.

B. The Social Security Act

As part of the Tax Reform Act of 1976, Congress amended the Social Security Act as follows to permit state governmental agencies to require disclosure of SSNs:

It is the policy of the United States that any State (or political subdivision thereof) may, in the administration of any tax, general public assistance, driver's license, or motor vehicle registration law within its jurisdiction, utilize the social security account numbers issued by the Secretary for the purpose of establishing the identification of individuals affected by such law, and may require any individual who is or appears to be so affected to furnish to such State (or political subdivision thereof) or any agency thereof having administrative responsibility for the law involved, the social security account number (or numbers, if he has more than one such number) issued to him by the Secretary.

42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(i) (The Tax Reform Act of 1976 § 1211(b), Pub.L. No. 94-455, 90 Stat. 1520, 1711-12). The amendment authorized any State to "use social security numbers for the purpose of establishing the identification of individuals affected by any law or program in its jurisdiction." House Report No. 94-658, 94th Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1976 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin. News, 2897, 3820-21.

The 1976 amendment to the Social Security Act expressly addressed the terms of the Privacy Act. Any state department of motor vehicles that did not use the SSN for identification in accordance with a statute adopted prior to January 1, 1975 (including, inter alia, New York) was expressly authorized to do so. See 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(c)(2)(C)(vi). Also, Congress explicitly stated that, to the extent that any existing provision of federal law was ...


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