OVERVIEW OF THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974

CIVIL REMEDIES

F. Principles Applicable to All Privacy Act Civil Actions

2. Jurisdiction and Venue

"An action to enforce any liability created under this section may be brought in the district court of the United States in the district in which the complainant resides, or has his principal place of business, or in which the agency records are situated, or in the District of Columbia." 5 U.S.C.  552a(g)(5).

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By its very terms, this section limits jurisdiction over Privacy Act matters to the federal district courts. 5 U.S.C.  552a(g)(5); see also, e.g., Minnich v. MSPB, No. 94-3587, 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 5768, at *3 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 21, 1995) (per curiam) (MSPB does not have jurisdiction over Privacy Act claims); Frasier v. United States, No. 94-5131, 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 35392, at *3 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 6, 1994) ("U.S. Court of Federal Claims does not have jurisdiction over Privacy Act matters"); Strickland v. Commissioner, No. 9799-95, 2000 WL 274077 (T.C. Mar. 14, 2000) (Tax Court "do[es] not have the authority to address [Privacy Act] claim[].").

Because venue is always proper in the District of Columbia, the Privacy Act decisions of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are of great importance.

For cases involving this provision, see Warg v. Reno, 19 F. Supp. 2d 776, 785 (N.D. Ohio 1998) ("find[ing] the Northern District of Ohio to be an improper venue" and transferring case to District of Columbia in interest of justice where plaintiff resided in Maryland and records were located in Washington, D.C.), Akutowicz v. United States, 859 F.2d 1122, 1126 (2d Cir. 1988) (venue proper only in District of Columbia for plaintiff who resided and worked continuously in France), Harton v. Bureau of Prisons, No. 97-0638, slip op. at 3, 6-7 (D.D.C. Nov. 12, 1997) (stating that "the fact that the Privacy Act provides for venue in the District of Columbia does not, by itself, establish that each and every Privacy Act claim involves issues of national policy," and granting agency's motion to transfer to jurisdiction where plaintiff was incarcerated, as complaint focused primarily on issues specific to plaintiff), and Finley v. National Endowment for the Arts, 795 F. Supp. 1457, 1467 (C.D. Cal. 1992) ("[I]n a multi-plaintiff Privacy Act action, if any plaintiff satisfies the venue requirement of 5 U.S.C.  552a(g)(5), the venue requirement is satisfied as to the remaining plaintiffs.").


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