Appeals court reinstitutes parking ticket lawsuit against Palatine


A federal appeals court this week reinstituted a motorist's lawsuit against the village of Palatine for printing private information on a parking ticket.

In a 44-page decision, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 7-to-4 that the police department's placement of protected personal information in public view violates the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1964.

"There are very real safety and security concerns at stake here," Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote. "For example, an individual seeking to stalk or rape can go down a street where overnight parking is banned and collect the home address and personal information of women whose vehicles have been tagged."

Village attorney Patrick Brankin declined to comment on behalf of Palatine due to the ongoing litigation.

The case dates back to August 2010, when Palatine resident Jason Senne received a $20 ticket for illegally parking overnight in the area of Hawk Street and Heron Drive.

Palatine police officers electronically produce citations that include information such as name, address, driver's license number, date of birth, sex, height and weight. Senne, who discovered the ticket underneath his windshield wiper about five hours after it was issued, claimed the village was violating privacy laws.

In an earlier decision, a district court granted Palatine's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the citation wasn't considered a disclosure.

But the appeals court majority said it didn't matter if Senne could prove anyone actually viewed it, and called the police department's protocol "a gratuitous act that, harmless or not, serves no law enforcement purpose and therefore can't be for a permitted use."

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Judge Richard Posner wrote a scathing dissent, however, saying Palatine's printing of the information does not encourage or facilitate stalking.

He also said due to the four-year statute of limitation for private lawsuits, the decision theoretically means Palatine could have to pay $2,500 (the fine for a privacy violation) for every parking ticket issued within the village during that period. That would come to $80 million, Posner wrote.

He added that scofflaws will benefit the most because they have the most tickets.

"From now until the statute is amended (unless today's decision is reversed by the Supreme Court first), only a sucker would park legally in the Village of Palatine," Posner wrote.

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