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Sandra Lance will mark her third year without a driver’s license next Tuesday. That’s the price she’s paid for her refusal to give her fingerprints to the Georgia Department of Public Safety. And she may have to continue relying on Atlanta’s regional transit system indefinitely. After a short hearing on Thursday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Cynthia D. Wright denied Lance’s petition for a writ of mandamus. Lance, an Atlanta chiropractor, has asked the court to direct Gov. Roy Barnes to order the department to issue her a license and destroy its databank of millions of fingerprints. In granting the state’s motion to dismiss the petition, Wright did not comment on the merits of Lance’s claim, saying only that the plaintiff and her lawyer, Wade D. Hobbs of the Washington, D.C.-based Association to Stop Unconstitutional Fingerprinting, went about their claim the wrong way. “I do not think that this is the vehicle to be traveling under,” Wright told Hobbs, adding that Lance had not exhausted all avenues for administrative remedies. “I feel certain that we will see this case back before the court on substantive grounds.” Hobbs fumed, telling the judge in court after she had ruled, “It’s absolutely ridiculous to say that the governor of Georgia can’t tell the Department of Public Safety what to do.” The lawyer says he will appeal the petition to the state Court of Appeals and, if necessary, ask the state supreme court to consider examining the issue. The fingerprinting law, HB-256, was passed at the end of the 1996 legislative session and has since faced a series of efforts to repeal or modify it. The law allows the Department of Public Safety to require applicants for a driver’s license to submit their fingerprints. A push by Senate Republicans to make fingerprinting optional failed mostly along party lines in March. Five other states, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Texas and West Virginia, collect fingerprints from driver’s license applicants. In her petition, Lance claims that the department’s requirement that driver’s license applicants submit fingerprints to the state exceeds the authority granted it by the Legislature. She also claims that the department violates the administrative law of Georgia by failing to adopt and publish an administrative rule detailing the policy. Lastly, she claims the collection policy violates the Georgia constitution’s due process protections. Lance v. Barnes, No. 00CV29293 (Fult. Super. Dec. 7, 2000). “No other adequate remedy exists, other than to issue the plaintiff her license and to destroy the fingerprints database,” Hobbs wrote in his complaint. “No amount of monetary damages can restore the plaintiff’s fundamental right to travel, a right that the Public Safety department has denied her.” To obtain a writ, the plaintiff must show that she has a clear right to relief and that no other remedy is available to her. But Assistant Attorney General J. Jayson Phillips, who argued for the state, told the judge that Lance still has several administrative options at her disposal. In the state’s motion to dismiss Lance’s petition, Phillips notes that Lance could appeal the decision to deny her a license under the Administrative Procedure Act, seek an administrative declaratory ruling from the department on the constitutionality of collecting fingerprints, or file a declaratory action in Superior Court challenging the policy directly. “As the petitioner has adequate legal remedies, and has failed to utilize such remedies, mandamus relief cannot lie in the case at bar,” he wrote. Also, the state’s motion notes that, although Gov. Barnes, Commissioner Jim Wetherington and Senior Assistant Attorney General Chris Brasher are named as defendants, they do not have the authority to direct the agency to issue Lance a license. Nor can they order the agency to destroy the database of collected fingerprints, the motion says. “Since they have no legal authority by themselves, respondents Barnes and Wetherington may not provide the relief sought by the Petitioner, even if compelled to do so by order of this Court,” Phillips wrote. The motion also notes that Brasher is not a public official, but a state employee. Though Wright ruled against the plaintiff’s petition, Phillips says he doesn’t think he’s seen the last of this case. “We wouldn’t rule that out,” he says. “This one has been around for a while.” Hobbs says he has no intention of giving up. He says that if the governor, as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, truly is unable to direct the Department of Public Safety to drop a policy, it constitutes a “gross violation of separation of powers.” “We feel that this was the correct vehicle to proceed under,” he says. The lawyer likens the department’s policy to the policy that Nazi Germany instituted to track the identities and whereabouts of the residents of countries in occupied Europe. “The similarity between the ID cards used in Europe and the de facto ID cards being issued to Georgia drivers is startling,” he wrote in Lance’s petition. And although she has not been able to drive, Lance says she’s willing to continue the effort. Taking the bus everywhere and carrying groceries in a backpack is annoying, she says, but worth the trouble. “I’m a fingerprint fugitive,” she says, distinguishing herself from “fingerprint refugees” who obtain licenses in other states. Lance says she knew about the provision when she went in to get her license renewed three years ago, and had decided that she was not going to give the department her fingerprints. As Lance puts it, “They said, ‘It’s the law,’ and I said, �Where is the law?’ “ Lance says the employees at the agency couldn’t produce a rule, policy or law requiring her to give her fingerprints, or allowing the department to deny her a license if she didn’t. Nevertheless, when Lance refused to give her prints, she left the office without a license. As Lance and her lawyer made their way out of the courthouse, Hobbs showed that he’s aware of the difficulties his client faces. “Sandra,” he asked, “can I give you a ride home?”

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