Trump Election Panel Dodges Privacy Rights Group Lawsuit

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By Jimmy H. Koo (Bloomberg Law)With assistance from Christie Smythe (Bloomberg) in New York

A privacy group doesn’t have the legal right to seek a court order to block President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission from collecting data about U.S. voters, a federal appeals court affirmed Dec. 26.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center “lacks standing to obtain such relief because it has suffered no cognizable informational or organizational injury,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held, upholding a decision of a lower-court judge.

EPIC isn’t a voter, and therefore isn’t the type of plaintiff Congress sought to protect under the E-Government Act, the court said.

In June, the commission asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia to provide data on all of their registered voters. EPIC sued the commission, arguing that it failed to first conduct a privacy impact assessment, as required under the E-Government Act.

The advocacy group asked the trial court to prohibit the commission from collecting voter data prior to completing the privacy impact assessment. The trial court denied EPIC’s motion, and the advocacy group appealed.

Affirming the dismissal, Judge Karen L. Henderson said that EPIC hasn’t suffered any injury. “Not only does EPIC have no cognizable interest in a privacy impact assessment but the resources it spent were not even demonstrably attributable to the lack of an assessment,” the court held.

Concurring, Judge Stephen F. Williams said that organizational standing is just a label assigned to the capacity in which the particular organization alleges it has been harmed, and isn’t a separate type of injury.

Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg joined the majority opinion.

Marc Rotenberg represented EPIC. Daniel Tenny of the Justice Department represented the commission.

The case is Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. Presidential Advisory Comm’n on Election Integrity , D.C. Cir., No. 17-5171, 12/26/17 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Jimmy H. Koo (Bloomberg Law) in Washington at jkoo@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin (Bloomberg Law at daplin@bloomberglaw.com; Joe Schneider (Bloomberg) at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

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Full text of the order is available at http://src.bna.com/vfD.

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