New Richmond News v. City of Richmond, No. 2014AP1938.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtSTARK, P.J.
Citation370 Wis.2d 75,881 N.W.2d 339
PartiesNEW RICHMOND NEWS and Steven Dzubay, Plaintiffs–Respondents, v. CITY OF NEW RICHMOND, Defendant–Appellant.
Decision Date10 May 2016
Docket NumberNo. 2014AP1938.

370 Wis.2d 75
881 N.W.2d 339

NEW RICHMOND NEWS and Steven Dzubay, Plaintiffs–Respondents,
v.
CITY OF NEW RICHMOND, Defendant–Appellant.

No. 2014AP1938.

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin.

Submitted on Briefs Feb. 16, 2016.
Opinion Filed May 10, 2016.


881 N.W.2d 342

On behalf of the defendant-appellant, the cause was submitted on the briefs of Remzy D. Bitar, Timothy M. Johnson and Samantha R. Schmid of Crivello Carlson, S.C., Milwaukee.

On behalf of the plaintiffs-respondents, the cause was submitted on the brief of Robert J. Dreps and Dustin B. Brown of Godfrey & Kahn, S.C., Madison.

A nonparty brief was filed by Brad D. Schimel, attorney general, Andrew C. Cook, deputy attorney general, and Delanie Breuer, assistant attorney general, for the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

A nonparty brief was filed by Claire Silverman of Madison, for League of Wisconsin Municipalities, and Andrew T. Phillips of von Briesen & Roper, S.C., of Milwaukee, for Wisconsin Counties Association.

A nonparty brief was filed by Michael J. Modl, Timothy M. Barber and Gesina M. Seiler of Axley Brynelson, LLP, of Madison, for Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation and Community Insurance Corporation.

A nonparty brief was filed by Christa Westerberg of McGillivray Westerberg & Bender LLC, of Madison, for Wisconsin Newspaper Association, and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Before STARK, P.J., HRUZ and SEIDL, JJ.

STARK, P.J.

370 Wis.2d 81

¶ 1 New Richmond News and its publisher, Steven Dzubay, (collectively, the Newspaper) requested two accident reports and two incident reports from the City of New Richmond Police Department, pursuant to Wisconsin's public records law. The police department ultimately provided the reports, but it redacted information identifying individuals referenced in both of the accident reports and one of the incident reports. Relying on Senne v. Village of Palatine, 695 F.3d 597 (7th Cir.2012), the police department contended these redactions were required by the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). The Newspaper then sued the City of New Richmond, alleging the police department's failure to provide unredacted copies of the requested reports violated the public records law. The circuit court granted the Newspaper judgment on the pleadings, concluding the DPPA did not prohibit the department from providing unredacted copies of the reports.

370 Wis.2d 82

¶ 2 We conclude the police department was permitted to release unredacted copies of the accident reports requested by the Newspaper, pursuant to the DPPA exception allowing disclosures specifically authorized under state law, if such use is related to the operation of a motor vehicle or public safety. See 18 U.S.C. § 2721(b)(14). Wisconsin law specifically requires police departments to release accident

881 N.W.2d 343

reports upon request. See Wis. Stat. § 346.70(4)(f).1 We therefore affirm the circuit court's decision with respect to the accident reports.

¶ 3 However, we reverse the circuit court's decision that the DPPA did not prohibit the department from releasing an unredacted copy of the incident report requested by the Newspaper. The circuit court concluded 18 U.S.C. § 2721(b)(1), the DPPA exception allowing disclosure for use by a government agency in carrying out its functions, permitted the police department to release the incident report in response to the Newspaper's public records request because responding to public records requests is a “function” of the police department. However, as we explain below, accepting that conclusion would lead to results that are in direct conflict with the DPPA. We therefore reverse the circuit court's determination that release of the incident report was permissible under § 2721(b)(1) by virtue of the public records law. Nevertheless, we remand for a determination of whether release of the incident report serves some other function of the police department, beyond mere compliance with the public records law, such that release of the unredacted report was otherwise permitted under § 2721(b)(1).

370 Wis.2d 83

¶ 4 In addition, we observe there is a factual dispute regarding whether the redacted information in the incident report was obtained from department of motor vehicle (DMV) records, or merely verified using those records. If the redacted information was obtained from other sources and was only verified using DMV records, it is not protected by the DPPA in the first instance. We therefore direct the circuit court on remand to determine, as a threshold matter, whether the redacted information in the incident report was obtained from DMV records.

RELEVANT AUTHORITIES

I. DPPA

¶ 5 The DPPA was enacted in 1994 to “limit the release of an individual's personal information contained in his [or her] driver's license record to those who had a legitimate and lawful need for the information.” Kehoe v. Fidelity Fed. Bank & Trust, 421 F.3d 1209, 1210 (11th Cir.2005). In particular, the DPPA “responded to at least two concerns over the personal information contained in state motor vehicle records.” Maracich v. Spears, ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2191, 2198, 186 L.Ed.2d 275 (2013). The first of these concerns was “a growing threat from stalkers and criminals who could acquire personal information from state [departments of motor vehicles].” Id. “The second concern related to the States' common practice of selling personal information to businesses engaged in direct marketing and solicitation.” Id.

¶ 6 In response to these concerns, Congress established a regulatory scheme that restricts disclosure of drivers' personal information without their consent. Id. First, the DPPA sets forth the following prohibition

370 Wis.2d 84

regarding the release of certain types of information from motor vehicle records kept by state DMVs:

A State department of motor vehicles, and any officer, employee, or contractor thereof, shall not knowingly disclose or otherwise make available to any person or entity:

(1) personal information ... about any individual obtained by the department in
881 N.W.2d 344
connection with a motor vehicle record, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section; or

(2) highly restricted personal information ... about any individual obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record, without the express consent of the person to whom such information applies, except uses permitted in subsections (b)(1), (b)(4), (b)(6), and (b)(9)....

18 U.S.C. § 2721(a). For purposes of the DPPA, “personal information” means

information that identifies an individual, including an individual's photograph, social security number, driver identification number, name, address (but not the 5–digit zip code), telephone number, and medical or disability information, but does not include information on vehicular accidents, driving violations, and driver's status.

Id., § 2725(3) (footnote omitted). “Highly restricted personal information” means “an individual's photograph or image, social security number, medical or disability information.” Id., § 2725(4). “Motor vehicle record” means “any record that pertains to a motor vehicle operator's permit, motor vehicle title, motor vehicle registration, or identification card issued by a department of motor vehicles.” Id., § 2725(1).

370 Wis.2d 85

¶ 7 The DPPA's disclosure prohibition is then subject to fourteen exceptions, or “permissible uses,” listed in subsec. (b).2 See 18 U.S.C. § 2721(b) ; see also Senne, 695 F.3d at 605 (“Against the backdrop of the general rule prohibiting disclosures in subsection (a), subsection (b) provides ... several categories of permissive disclosures.”). As relevant here, subsec. (b) provides that personal information “may be disclosed”:

(1) For use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private person or entity acting on behalf of a Federal, State, or local agency in carrying out its functions.

....

(14) For any other use specifically authorized under the law of the State that holds the record, if such use is related to the operation of a motor vehicle or public safety.

18 U.S.C. § 2721(b).

¶ 8 The prohibition and exceptions set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 2721(a) and (b) also extend to “authorized recipients” of personal information from state DMVs, who may “resell or redisclose the information only for a use permitted under subsection (b),” subject to certain exceptions not applicable here. See id., § 2721(c). The DPPA creates a private right of action for any individual whose personal information is unlawfully disclosed. See id., § 2724(a) (“A person who knowingly obtains, discloses or uses personal information, from a motor vehicle record, for a purpose not permitted under this chapter shall be liable to the...

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6 practice notes
  • Marks v. Hous. Cas. Co., No. 2013AP2756.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 30, 2016
    ...Office Bldgs., Inc., 145 Wis.2d at 585–86, 427 N.W.2d 427.¶ 99 In Grube, the circuit court determined the insurer breached its duty to 881 N.W.2d 339 defend after the court considered the entire policy, including exclusions. Grube, 173 Wis.2d at 49, 496 N.W.2d 106, Unlike this case, the pol......
  • Milligan v. Ottumwa Police Dep't, No. 17-1961
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 3, 2020
    ...owners is prohibited by federal and state law. We find persuasive the court’s reasoning in New Richmond News v. City of New Richmond , 370 Wis.2d 75, 881 N.W.2d 339 (Wis. Ct. App. 2016). In that case, a police department relied on the DPPA in redacting personal identifying information such ......
  • State v. Young, 2021AP901-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • July 26, 2022
    ...facts are both questions of law that we 12 consider independently. New Richmond News v. City of New Richmond, 2016 WI.App. 43, ¶29, 370 Wis.2d 75, 881 N.W.2d 339. ¶26 Upon review of WIS. STAT § 97309(1d), we do not agree that the language on which Young relies supports his contentions We ob......
  • Media Placement Servs., Inc. v. Wis. Dep't of Transp., Appeal No. 2017AP791
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • April 24, 2018
    ...named the Milwaukee Police Department; however, following our decision in New Richmond News v. City of New Richmond , 2016 WI App 43, 370 Wis. 2d 75, 881 N.W.2d 339, the parties stipulated to the Milwaukee Police Department’s dismissal from this action.2 A requester using the DOT’s website ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Marks v. Hous. Cas. Co., No. 2013AP2756.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 30, 2016
    ...Office Bldgs., Inc., 145 Wis.2d at 585–86, 427 N.W.2d 427.¶ 99 In Grube, the circuit court determined the insurer breached its duty to 881 N.W.2d 339 defend after the court considered the entire policy, including exclusions. Grube, 173 Wis.2d at 49, 496 N.W.2d 106, Unlike this case, the pol......
  • Milligan v. Ottumwa Police Dep't, No. 17-1961
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 3, 2020
    ...owners is prohibited by federal and state law. We find persuasive the court’s reasoning in New Richmond News v. City of New Richmond , 370 Wis.2d 75, 881 N.W.2d 339 (Wis. Ct. App. 2016). In that case, a police department relied on the DPPA in redacting personal identifying information such ......
  • State v. Young, 2021AP901-CR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • July 26, 2022
    ...facts are both questions of law that we 12 consider independently. New Richmond News v. City of New Richmond, 2016 WI.App. 43, ¶29, 370 Wis.2d 75, 881 N.W.2d 339. ¶26 Upon review of WIS. STAT § 97309(1d), we do not agree that the language on which Young relies supports his contentions We ob......
  • Media Placement Servs., Inc. v. Wis. Dep't of Transp., Appeal No. 2017AP791
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Wisconsin
    • April 24, 2018
    ...named the Milwaukee Police Department; however, following our decision in New Richmond News v. City of New Richmond , 2016 WI App 43, 370 Wis. 2d 75, 881 N.W.2d 339, the parties stipulated to the Milwaukee Police Department’s dismissal from this action.2 A requester using the DOT’s website ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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