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Federal judge dismisses suit over driver’s license data

A federal judge has dealt another blow to plaintiffs seeking monetary damages from dozens of Minnesota law enforcement agencies and government officials that they accuse of inappropriately accessing driver’s license data.

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery on Thursday dismissed a suit that named more than 60 cities, counties and agencies throughout the state, including St. Louis and Lake counties, the cities of Duluth and Cloquet and the Fond du Lac Police Department.

The suit was brought in September by 18 plaintiffs, who allege that their records were accessed hundreds of times without proper cause, in violation of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. The plaintiffs, who included former Wabasha County commissioners and vocal citizens, argued that they were targeted for political purposes.

In her ruling, Montgomery wrote that most of the claims were time-barred under the statute of limitations. The rest of the claims, she wrote, are not substantiated in the complaint.

“In this case, eighteen plaintiffs ask the court to infer (1) that they are a ‘group’ and (2) that unknown law enforcement personnel in 26 counties and 36 cities targeted them as individuals with impermissible look-ups because they were part of this group, a case of political victimization by association,” Montgomery wrote. “The Complaint does not support such an inference.”

Montgomery dismissed portions of the suit without prejudice, meaning a new suit could still be brought on the same allegations. Attorneys also can appeal her decision.

More than 50 lawsuits have been filed against local and state authorities over driver’s license look-ups in recent years, but the cases have failed to gain much traction, with others having also been dismissed.

The city of Duluth has been sued eight times in recent months, the city attorney’s office told the News Tribune last week. The St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, meanwhile, reported that it has been served in more than 10 cases.