FOIA Advisor

Court opinions issued Sept. 9, 2016

Court Opinions (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Am. Farm Bureau Fed'n v. EPA (8th Cir.) -- reversing district court's decision that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a "reverse" FOIA suit to prevent disclosure of certain information about their concentrated animal feeding operations, and that the information at issue was not exempt from mandatory disclosure under Exemption 6.  In analyzing the applicability of Exemption 6, the Eighth Circuit rejected the EPA's argument that the information's availability through various other public sources diminished the plaintiffs' privacy interests. 

Although a requester might be able to find the information he seeks on a website or in a State's publicly available files, the agency's comprehensive listing . . . substantially increases the public visibility and accessibility of that information. The agency's release of the complete set of data on a silver platter, so to speak, eliminates the need for requesters and others to scour different websites and to pursue public records requests to create a comprehensive database of their own.  If the information were so easily accessible, then it is passing strange that the parties would engage in protracted and expensive litigation to secure it through the Freedom of Information Act.  See Reporters Comm., 489 U.S. at 764.

The Eighth Circuit remanded the case for the district court to determine whether EPA is prohibited by any independent source of authority from making a discretionary release of the information at issue.

Brozzo v. U.S. Dep't of Educ. (N.D.N.Y.) -- ruling that the agency did not show that student loan records possessed by another entity were not "agency records" in light of agency regulation that authorized agency to copy and inspect them. 

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here.