Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Maracich v. Spears

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: September 25, 2012
Case #: 12-25
Court Below: 675 F.3d 281 (4th Cir. 2012).
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/102021.P.pdf

Professional Responsibility: Whether lawyers may use personal information protected by the Driver's Privacy Protection Act to investigate and solicit potential clients for a class action litigation or whether such use falls outside the permissible scope of the litigation exception.

Respondent lawyers obtained Petitioners’ protected personal information from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles under the state Freedom of Information Act, and used the information to solicit clients for an anticipated class action. Petitioners sued Respondents for violating the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (DPPA) (18 U.S.C. §§ 2721–2725) by obtaining and using their information without consent.

The court reasoned that use of the obtained information fell within the litigation exception of the DPPA and granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed and found that such solicitation is within the scope of the litigation exception of DPPA because it is "inextricably intertwined" with litigation conduct.

On appeal Petitioners are asking the Court to resolve a circuit split between the Fourth, Eleventh and Third Circuits and to determine whether the Fourth Circuit erred in: (1) holding that lawyers who obtain protected information in order to solicit clients are within the scope of the litigation exception of the Act; and (2) concluding that such a use of DPPA protected information is "inextricably intertwined" with "use in litigation."