Attorney General: Honorable Aaron Ment, Supreme Court Building, 1998-002 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

January 20, 1998

Honorable Aaron Ment
Chief Court Administrator
Supreme Court Building
Drawer N, Station A
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Judge Ment:

I have reviewed your December 23, 1997 request for our opinion on whether local registrars of voters are required by law to supply the Social Security numbers of voters to the State Jury Administrator to assist the Administrator in the preparation of the master jury list. According to your letter, the legislature mandated the disclosure of this information in Public Act 97-200 as a means to properly and more precisely compile lists of potential jurors. Since similar information is already supplied by the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Labor and the Department of Revenue Services, voter lists which contain Social Security identification would help eliminate the possibility that an individual would be called more than once a term for jury duty. I agree with you as to the importance of compiling an accurate and complete master jury list. At the same time, I am sensitive to the significant and justifiable concern, widely felt by the public, about the threat of dissemination or disclosure of their Social Security numbers. I have personally and repeatedly warned consumers about the real danger of providing such personally identifying information as Social Security numbers to anyone, and the risks of harm is such information falls into the wrong hands. Once such information is improperly or inadvertently released, there is no way to retrieve it.

Assuming the legislature's sensitivity to these same concerns, the answer to your question turns on its intent in requiring registrars of voters to provide the jury Administrator with electors' Social Security numbers "if available." According to several registrars of voters, Social Security numbers within their possession are not "available" because voters were not notified that their Social Security numbers would be supplied to the Jury Administrator and to a private contractor engaged to assist in the preparation of the master jury list. According to the registrars of voters, the lack of notification violates Conn. Gen. Stat.  9-23h and P.L. 93-579 of the federal Privacy Act. Together, these laws require state and local governments which request disclosure of Social Security numbers to inform the "individual whether that disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and what uses will be made of it." Pub. L. 93-579, 5 U.S.C.A. 552 a, note.

Clearly, the law is ambiguous. While we must presume that the legislature acted with awareness of other existing statutes to create one harmonious body of law, see DeMatteo Construction Co. v. New London, 236 Conn.. 710, 715 (1996), two statutes with different objectives concerning Social Security number disclosure naturally invite multiple interpretations. There is clear support for your stated position that the existing Social Security number in the possession of the registrars are "available" and must be supplied to the Jury Administrator under Public Act 97-200. The legislature was aware that such information was being compiled by the registrars, and it is reasonable to assume that the legislature presumed that such existing data was "available" to the Jury Administrator. However, the registrars' interpretation of P.A.. 97-200 is also reasonable. In passing P.A. 97-200, the legislature was aware that, pursuant to  9-23h, Connecticut voters provide Social Security numbers to registrars only on a voluntary basis and only after being notified of the uses which will be made of their Social Security numbers. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the legislature intended that voters' social security numbers would be available to the Jury Administrator only after voters were notified that they would be disseminated in this manner and they, thereafter, voluntarily disclosed their social security numbers to the registrars. My hope is that the legislature will act promptly to clarify the statutory mandate. It has been reported recently that the legislative leaders are considering clarifying the disclosure requirements contained P.A. 97-200. In my opinion, the legislature is the proper forum in which to resolve this important question. An opinion by this office might well only lead to litigation and further delay in the implementation of a new master jury list. Since the legislation is ambiguous and since it will affect all of Connecticut's voters, I will urge that the legislature act quickly and decisively on this issue. My advice, therefore, is that you should proceed to establish the master jury list with the names of electors supplied by the registrars of voters, but without electors' Social Security numbers, until the legislature has an opportunity to act on this matter.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL


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