Privacy Law

Lawyer's suit over disclosure of ABA Journal subscription tossed by federal judge

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A federal judge in Detroit has tossed a Michigan lawyer’s lawsuit contending that the American Bar Association disclosed his membership, and therefore his ABA Journal subscription, to list brokers and others in violation of state law.

U.S. District Judge Terrence G. Berg of the Eastern District of Michigan ruled Wednesday against lawyer Mark Crane of Michigan, who contended that the ABA had unlawfully revealed his personal reading information. Crane practices law in Rochester, Michigan.

Law360 has coverage.

Berg said he didn’t have jurisdiction because Crane had disclosed his ABA membership online and suffered no concrete harm that would give him standing to sue.

The Journal is a benefit of ABA membership.

Crane had contended that the ABA disclosure violated a Michigan law that prevents sellers of books and other reading materials from identifying their customers. The law is called the Preservation of Personal Privacy Act.

He argued in a would-be class action that sale of his membership information necessarily revealed that he receives the Journal. The list brokers who buy membership lists in turn sell the information to advertisers and others, according to the June 2022 suit, resulting in “a barrage of unwanted junk mail.”

Crane had sought statutory damages of $5,000 for himself and for every class member for the period before July 31, 2016, when Michigan eliminated statutory damages in such privacy suits and required proof of actual damages.

But Crane had revealed his ABA membership on websites for his law firm and the State Bar of Michigan, Berg said. Crane has “published to the entire world the very facts he claims the ABA revealed,” Berg wrote.

Berg said Crane could seek leave to amend his suit if he can allege that the ABA disclosed information about other books or magazines that he purchased.

Crane did not immediately respond to a Journal email and voicemail requesting comment.

The ABA does not comment on ongoing litigation.

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