| WASHINGTON, June 17
WASHINGTON, June 17 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled
on Monday that lawyers cannot gather personal information about
drivers from state databases when seeking plaintiffs for
The court held in a narrow 5-4 vote that the federal Drivers
Privacy Protection Act of 1994 does not allow lawyers to seek
The case hinged on language in the law that allows access to
the data for lawyers pursuing an "investigation in anticipation
A group of drivers sued lawyers who had sought the personal
information from the South Carolina Department of Motor
Vehicles. The lawyers, including the firm Lewis & Babcock LLP,
were seeking to file a lawsuit on behalf of customers against
car dealerships over alleged unlawful administrative fees.
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that
"an attorney's solicitation of clients" did not fit into the
section of the law that refers to litigation.
What the law protected, he added, was the right of lawyers
to seek information in ongoing cases in which they already
The law "has a limited scope to permit the use of highly
restricted personal information when it serves an integral
purpose in a particular legal proceeding," Kennedy said.
The case is Maracich, et al v. Spears, et al, U.S. Supreme
Court, No. 12-25.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and