Saturday, June 28, 2003

U.S. Supreme Court grants cert in W.D. Va. privacy case involving social security numbers

SCOTUSblog has this post with a link to this article in Washington Post about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to grant certiorari in Doe v. Chao, a case arising out of the Western District of Virginia. The issue is whether the use of Social Security numbers by the Department of Labor on the files of Black Lung claimants violates their rights under the federal Privacy Act, which regulates the use by government of Social Security numbers.

The case was brought by Norton attorney Joe Wolfe, with the aid of Jerry Kilgore, before he became Attorney General, and who argued the case unsuccessfuly before the Fourth Circuit, which issued this opinion written by Judge Karen Williams, who was joined by Judge Luttig, with Judge Michael dissenting.

I understand that one of usual suspects among the firms in D.C. who handle Supreme Court cases is associated with Joe Wolfe for the Supreme Court appeal. Joe told me about cert. order a couple of days ago, and of course he was delighted.

The issue in the case mainly has to do with the meaning of "actual damages" under the Privacy Act, since proving damages was apparently a problem for all but one of the plaintiffs in the district court, and on appeal the Fourth Circuit ruled out the claim of the one who prevailed before Judge (Glen) Williams in the district court.

The term "actual damages" appears in something like 62 different sections of the Virginia Code, so I have written a couple of briefs about the meaning of those words, particularly as they appear in Va Code § 65.2-308, the statute that provides a remedy for employees who are discharged for filing a claim for workers' compensation.

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