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FOIA Update: Certiorari Granted

FOIA Update
Vol. III, No. 1

Certiorari Granted

The Supreme Court granted certiorari Nov. 9 in Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Department of State, 647 F.2d 197 (D.C. Cir. 1981), a case in which the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that Exemption 6 was not broad enough to protect records concerning the suspected application for United States citizenship of Iranian nationals living in Iran.

In seeking certiorari, the Department of Justice contended to the Supreme Court that the court of appeals' "construction of Exemption 6 finds no support in the exemption's language or legislative history, defeats its underlying purpose and cannot be reconciled with this Court's explanation of the exemption in Department of the Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352 (1976)."

The Department also said review of the Washington Post decision is necessary to resolve a conflict among the circuits on this aspect of Exemption 6, and because of the "potentially far-reaching consequences" of the D.C. Circuit's decision.

This brings to three the number of FOIA cases accepted by the Supreme Court for review this term. The Court has also granted certiorari in Abramson v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 658 F.2d 806 (D.C. Cir. 1980). The issue in Abramson is whether information extracted from FBI records and summarized for a White House "name check" loses its protection under Exemption 7 in that recompilation process. (See FOIA Update, September 1981.)

Also before the Court is Shapiro v. Klutznick, 636 F.2d 1210 (3d Cir. 1980), cert. granted, sub nom. Baldrige v. Shapiro, 101 S. Ct. 779 (1981), which concerns the ability to withhold census data under Exemption 3. The Shapiro case was scheduled for oral argument on Dec. 2; no argument date has yet been set for either Abramson or Washington Post.

Additionally, it is expected that the government will petition for certiorari in the case of Holy Spirit Ass'n v. CIA, 636 F.2d 838 (D.C. Cir. 1980), which involves a FOIA request for classified documents.

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Updated August 13, 2014