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FOIA News: Court concludes FOIA does not require release of booking photos

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin Schmidt1 Comment

Court concludes FOIA does not require release of booking photos

By Jonathan H. Adler, Washington Post, July 14, 2016

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc in Detroit Free Press v. Department of Justice, has concluded that individuals have sufficient privacy interests in their police booking photos to preclude their release under the Freedom of Information Act. The decision, which produced an unusual lineup among the court’s justices, is available here.

Judge Cook wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Judge Cole and Judges Guy, Gibbons, Rogers, Sutton, McKeague, Kethledge and White. Her opinion begins:

In 1996, we held that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, required the release of booking photos of criminal defendants who have appeared in court during ongoing proceedings, finding that criminal defendants lack any privacy interest in the photos. Detroit Free Press, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice (Free Press I), 73 F.3d 93 (6th Cir. 1996). Twenty years and two contrary circuit-level decisions later, we find Free Press I untenable. Individuals enjoy a non-trivial privacy interest in their booking photos. We therefore overrule Free Press I.

Read more here.