June 21, 2007
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NEWARK, N.J. -- The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today announced that it has joined a lawsuit in the role of "friend-of-the-court" in a case concerning the privacy rights of tenants.

The lawsuit, captioned Powder Mill Heights, et al., v. Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills, challenges a township ordinance requiring landlords to turn over the names and Social Security numbers of all tenants. The ordinance also requires that landlords provide the town with the driver's license numbers, places of employment and phone numbers of all tenants.

"One of the core principles of our democracy, enshrined in our federal and state constitutions, is the right to privacy in your own home and control over your personal information," said Grayson Barber, a Princeton attorney who submitted the legal brief on behalf of the ACLU-NJ. "This ordinance subjects anyone who rents a home in Parsippany-Troy Hills to a profound invasion of privacy."

In its brief, the ACLU-NJ argued that the forced disclosure of Social Security numbers violates both federal and state statutes protecting the confidentiality of those numbers. In response to the town's stated need to adopt the ordinance to address overcrowding, the ACLU-NJ asserted that government should only be allowed to obtain the number of tenants in each apartment, not the names or Social Security numbers of those tenants.

"Every person in New Jersey has a right to refuse the unnecessary, forced disclosure of private information to the government," added Barber. "This is especially true given significant concerns in recent years over identity theft."

The ACLU-NJ, in its brief, noted an Appellate Division decision that struck down a similar measure in Belmar, N.J. In that decision, the court held that the town "does not need to know the names of tenants or their addresses or other personal information to enforce an occupancy limit."

Morris County Superior Court Judge B. Theodore Bozonelis accepted the ACLU-NJ as a friend-of-the-court on June 20, allowing the organization to participate in the lawsuit.

The brief is available on the ACLU-NJ Web site at Powder Mill v. Parsippany-Troy Hills Brief (38k PDF).