United States Department of State V. Ray
Marquise Green United States Department of State v. Ray Part I Every year millions of young adults graduate from their respective high schools, pack up their belongings, leave their parental guided homes behind, and set off for college. The first thing that comes to mind when leaving the parents behind is their first true sense of freedom. The freedom to do what they please with no curfew, no guidelines, and no pre-disposed consequences for their actions is the freedom they’ve been working hard throughout the maturing years of their childhood.
Upon arrival it seems as though this is the case, but as time passes one realizes that the so called freedom they attained comes with an inherited circumstance. The privacy that you once had in the safety of your home in your bedroom is violated by the inheritance of a roommate and the dorm lifestyle. Some may not have ever had this privacy due to their initial guardians, but the fact remains, that you have to share your space, time, and livelihood with the accompanied male or female assigned. The right to privacy is protected by many laws in our country’s government.
Included in these laws is the Freedom of Information Act in which the case at hand regards. In the United States Department of State v. Ray (502 U. S. 164, 112 S. Ct. 541) a group of Haitians seeking political asylum from our government, using the FOIA as a precedent for their reasoning, sought to receive the names and information withheld from them of Haitian emigrants who were previously sent back to Haiti upon arrival to the United States. The State Department in this case was known as the petitioner (plaintiff) and the respondent (defendant) was the Florida lawyer Michael D.
Ray representing the Haitian nationals and his clients. In a more detailed summary, it was stated that a group of Haitians depressed with their countries devastations, sought to illegally immigrate to the U. S. seeking asylum as political refugees. As our nation’s government caught attention of the immigrants, they imposed a plan to apprehend and reinsert the immigrants of who did not qualify for political asylum back into Haiti. Fearing the immigrants’ safety from persecution upon arrival, they comprised an agreement with the Haitian government to restrain from persecuting these individuals for their actions.
Also, they set forth a series of interviews with the immigrants to follow up on the agreement’s standing. This is where our case’s foreground was cemented. The remaining Haitian nationals known to be the respondents, made a series of FOIA requests to government agencies for copies of the reports of the interviews the State Department held from the returning Haitians. They wanted to prove that there was indeed a fear of prosecution upon returning to Haiti that entitled the immigrants to asylum in the U. S.
The problem at hand was that some of the information they received had been redacted or edited before the Haitian nationals received them. The State Department’s reasoning is that upon assigning the agreement with the Haitian government and the returning immigrants they interviewed, they vowed that they would not disclose any information of their names and whereabouts for their safety due to an invasion of privacy. The respondents argued that the right to privacy is outweighed by public interest and the Freedom of Information Act gives them the right.
The following case was settled in the Supreme Court with Justice Stevens delivering the ruling however, let us start with the District Court’s ruling. The District Court sided with the respondents and held that the invasion of privacy in this situation, giving away the names and addresses of the individuals was of little significance and was dominantly outweighed by public interest in the “safe relocation of returned Haitians. ” They ordered the State Department to surrender the redacted information. Upon reaching the Court of Appeals, they too sided with the respondents though they disagreed with some of the pretenses.
They first argued that the privacy of the Haitians was indeed significant given the fact that the respondents wanted the information to contact the returned Haitians directly and to question them, and second, that the returnees were previously promised confidentiality from our government. Though they argued these points, the court concluded that “the indirect benefit of giving respondents the means to locate the Haitian returnees…provided a public value that required disclosure. The Supreme Court then granted certiorari. Here lies a more detailed description of the FOIA.
One precedent in the case was from John Doe Agency v. John Doe Corp. which it stated, “The Freedom of Information Act was enacted to facilitate public access to Government documents. ” In the FOIA there are a series of 9 exemptions to disclosure of this information. These are put in place to ensure the protection of federal agencies and certain information that shouldn’t be viewed by the public. Specifically in this case, Exemption 6 was used by the State Department stating that “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Upon further examination of the FOIA and Exemption 6 they lean to the Department of Air Force v. Rose case as a precedent for their decision. The key concept in this exemption which the Court examined is “…a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. ” The main points that the Supreme Court derived its decision from were that first; they felt that public interest had initially been satisfied by the disclosure of the redacted interview summaries, and the unredacted documents would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.
They felt that the addition of the redacted files would not give any further information that the respondents seek. The second, was that the public interest the respondents rely on stems from they might find information outside of the Government files, which inherits “derivative use” that which the law doesn’t stand for. And finally that the respondents were seeking to attain information with hopes to find evidence that would challenge the integrity of our government officials. The Supreme Court concluded that “the proposed invasion of the serious privacy interest of the Haitian returnees is clearly unwarranted. With that being said the judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed. The opinion preceding the decision was made by Justice Scalia and Justice Kennedy concurring in part and in the judgment. They stated that the majority agreed that whether to establish a public interest or to establish an invasion of privacy is impermissible considering derivative uses. They contended that the FOIA would be more sensible if it included “cause, produce or lead to” when associating with clearly unwanted invasion of personal privacy.
They believed that there shouldn’t have been an argument for Exemption 6. U. S. officials pledged confidentiality knowing that the information regarding the interviews is something that a person would not want to be shared, therefore an invasion of personal privacy. They conclude that there is nothing substantial about the other side’s argument for public interest that can compete, so this is “clearly unwarranted” and upholds to Exemption 6. Part II In the first case documenting my chosen case as a precedent, Long v. United States Department of Justice (778 F.
Supp. 2d 222), petitioners brought action against the Department of Justice attempting to attain records relating to health care providers’ reports of vaccine administration and the reactions of the administration, specifically the vaccine types and dates. The DOJ stated that the reasoning for them withholding the information from the public was due to the FOIA’s exemption 6 regarding the personal privacy of the patients. They stated that the information would provide “specific medical information” about the named individuals.
The District Court of New York held however, that even though the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 gives right to health care providers to withhold information, the DOJ had nothing that just justified their decision to withhold the type of vaccine administered or the date of the administration. The Court also stated that the DOJ failed to satisfy the burden of justifying the withholding under Exemption 6. With these findings, the Court initially granted summary judgment in way of the plaintiff and ordered the disclosure of the information.
The DOJ then motioned for reconsideration which the Court granted. In reconsideration, the DOJ requested for summary judgment on both the FOIA’s Exemption 3 and 6. First, the DOJ stated that the vaccine types and dates were withheld under Exemption 3, which exempts disclosure by statute, due to statute 300aa-12(d)(4)(A) which prohibits disclosure of this information. The plaintiffs however, argued that the meaning of the word “information” is too broad and can’t specifically relate to the subject, vaccine types and dates of administration.
Further, they contradicted the definition of the word “information” as defined in the statute to the actual dictionary definition to better prove their position in the argument. Though valid in point, it couldn’t outweigh the substantiality of Exemption 6 in which we find our initial court case as precedent. Exemption 6, stated prior, exempts disclosure of “personnel and medical files and similar files,” like these, due to a “clear, unwarranted invasion of privacy. In discussion of Exemption 6, the Court stated that it is set forth to “protect individuals from the injury and embarrassment that can result from the unnecessary disclosure of personal information. Basically the Court is weighing public interest versus personal privacy like in our original court case. In regards to our previous case’s relevance as a precedent in this case, the vaccine types and dates were linked to docket numbers which revealed the names and medical information of individuals that shouldn’t be disclosed. They quoted United States Dep’t of State v.
Ray stating, (“disclosure of… personal information constitutes only a de minimis invasion of privacy when the identities… are unknown, the invasion of privacy becomes significant when the personal information is linked to particular” individuals). The Court realized that this put the information at risk of invading personal privacy and was the main factor in their final decision. In conclusion the Court ordered the reconsideration of the defendant, vacated the initial motion for summary judgment, and denied the plaintiffs cross-motion to receive the vaccine types and dates of administration.
In my second case regarding my chosen case as a precedent, the FOIA’s Exemption 6 was also used to reach a decision. In Sherman v. United States Department of the Army (244 F. 3d 357) action was brought against the army to produce documents relating to service awards. These documents however, included the social security numbers of service personnel. The reasoning for Sherman’s lawsuit was because the Army redacted the SSNs from the documents pursuant to Exemption 6, knowing that this could cause risk for an unwarranted invasion of personnel privacy.
The procedure for redaction was relatively expensive and the Army felt that if Sherman wanted the documents he should pay for it. Sherman argued that this was outrageous and that the documents shouldn’t have to be redacted. The U. S. District Court for Southern Texas agreed that this might be a potential personal privacy risk and ruled summary judgment in favor of the Army which later got appealed. In the Court of Appeals is where we find our case’s precedent. There were two main points in which analysis was needed, Sherman’s waiver argument and Exemption 6 balancing.
In the waiver argument, Sherman, instead of contesting Exemption 6, argued that the Army uses SSNs publicly in several situations. He used recreational orders and services such as airlines, hotels, and other public organizations. Sherman backed his argument using other cases as precedent and also argued that allowing the Army to withhold material that was already released they will have power to selectively control the power of disclosure for any documents containing SSNs.
The Court however, contended that even though the Sherman gave a valid argument that pertains to a group or agency, only the individual whose privacy is protected by Exemption 6 can waiver their individual privacy interests, declining Sherman’s argument. The Court then moved to balancing the sides on the Exemption 6 issue. Basically what they’re doing here is deciding whether the disclosure of SSNs is indeed “clearly unwarranted” in respects to personal privacy interest. They leaned most of their premise on Congress and the laws that protect personal privacy.
In evaluation, they came to the derivative use theory and noticed that certain implications could arise from the disclosure of Sherman’s request. In Justice Scalia’s concurring opinion of United States Department of State v. Ray Scalia states “…solely upon what the requested information reveals, not what it might lead to. ” What this means in assessment is that the Army’s claim for defense is because this information could potentially lead to harm to the individuals through the possibility of identity fraud.
In the conclusion of the analysis the Court claims that the redaction of the SSNs does not stop the public interest of attaining the award orders. Rather, it protects the individuals from an unwarranted invasion of their personal privacy. In Sherman’s argument he failed to identify that public interest (in the SSNs) would outweigh the personal privacy of the individuals through an unredacted disclosure. The Court reached a decision to affirm the districts court’s summary judgment in favor of the Army.