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JACKSON v. VETERANS ADMINISTRATION

September 8, 1980

LEWIS J. JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VETERANS ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roszkowski, District Judge.

ORDER

Before the court are cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons herein stated, this court denies plaintiff's motion and grants defendant's motion.

Plaintiff, Lewis J. Jackson, has brought this suit for damages claiming that Ms. Quandt, Director of the Veteran's Administration Hospital, North Chicago, Illinois, intentionally disclosed confidential information concerning plaintiff to a third party without plaintiff's prior consent, thereby violating the Privacy Act. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(b).

The parties agree that the facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff Jackson was employed by the Veteran's Administration at its North Chicago Hospital from May 16, 1976 to January 28, 1977, when he resigned. At the time of his resignation, termination proceedings were pending against plaintiff.

Sometime between plaintiff's termination and his subsequent employment on May 17, 1977, a dispute arose between plaintiff and Ms. Quandt regarding plaintiff's access to the Veteran's Administration facilities.

On April 26, 1977, Ms. Quandt wrote a letter to plaintiff in which she stated that she was imposing limitations on plaintiff's access to the VA Hospital and in which she apparently warned plaintiff that he would be subjected to criminal prosecution for violation of those limitations.

On May 17, 1977, plaintiff obtained employment as a police officer with the Department of Navy, Great Lakes, Illinois.

It is undisputed that on May 27, 1977, Ms. Quandt, without obtaining plaintiff's consent, called Leroy Ellis, Chief of Security at the Naval Base at Great Lakes, Illinois, and plaintiff's supervisor, to relay to him that VA officials in Washington, D.C. had told her that plaintiff Jackson had threatened various VA personnel, and to ask Ellis whether the Navy Security force and, therefore, plaintiff carried guns. In addition, it is undisputed that Ms. Quandt further inquired as to whether the Navy had reviewed plaintiff's references and previous employment and stated that such a review would have shown that plaintiff resigned from the VA pending termination for "poor judgment in the performance of his duties." Ms. Quandt may also have told Ellis that she had written a letter to plaintiff excluding plaintiff from the hospital grounds except for certain express purposes.

The sole question facing this court is whether the information disclosed by Ms. Quandt to Mr. Ellis concerning plaintiff constituted an unlawful disclosure within the meaning of the Privacy Act since plaintiff's consent was not obtained.

Under the Privacy Act's provisions, any disclosure of information covered by the Privacy Act is prohibited unless authorized by the prior written consent of the individual whose information is disclosed or unless authorized by one or more of the Act's specific exceptions. See, 5 U.S.C. § 552a(b); Local 2047 v. Def. Gen. Sup., 423 F. Supp. 481, 483 (E.D.Pa. 1976) aff'd. 573 F.2d 184 (4th Cir. 1978); see also, Note, The Privacy Act of 1976: An Overview, 1976 Duke L.J. 301 (1976).

In the immediate case, defendant concedes that no prior consent to disclose information was obtained from the plaintiff, and that Ms. Quandt transmitted the information alleged in the complaint to Mr. Ellis. Additionally, defendant does not contend that the information was properly disclosed pursuant to an exception under the Act.

Rather, defendant's position, is that the information disclosed is not covered by the Privacy Act.

Section 552a(b) of the Privacy Act provides, with certain exceptions, that:

  No agency shall disclose any record which is
  contained in a system of records by any means of
  communication to any person,

  or to another agency, except pursuant to a written
  consent by, or with the prior written ...

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