New York stops revoking licenses - again - for a while

| 3/2/2005

For now, at least, New York may be through taking away the driver’s licenses of people as part of a recent crackdown.

The on-again, off-again suspensions arose out of an effort that started in the Empire State nearly a year ago. In March 2004, Raymond P. Martinez, commissioner of the New York State Division of Motor Vehicles, announced that his agency would compare Social Security numbers used for driver’s licenses with information on file with the federal government. If the names and numbers didn’t match federal records, the driver’s licenses could be revoked.

The New York Times reported recently that the effort had already resulted in 7,000 people losing their licenses, and eventually, 300,000 were expected to be revoked.

Judge Karen Smith of the Supreme Court in New York City ordered Feb. 17 that the state must stop. The judge is presiding over a suit by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund against Martinez and New York Gov. George Pataki.

However, the state appealed Smith’s order, and state officials told the newspaper that the appeal filing would effectively suspend the judge’s order, allowing the department to move forward and either take away or refuse to renew more licenses. Groups fighting the decision reject the state’s assertion.

That part of the argument, at least, was settled March 2, when – according to The Times – Justice Angela M. Mazzarelli of the state appeals court ruled that the state was no longer bound by the order. However, she did so after a state lawyer said the Division of Motor Vehicles would be advised not to revoke any more. The lawyers on both sides of the case are scheduled to present their case on the issue by the end of March.