Goldner v. SSA, No. 17-1243, 2017 WL 6388741 (D. Md. Dec. 14, 2017) (Bredar, C. J.)
Re: Request for first, middle, and last name, city and state for all attorneys and non-eligible non-attorneys who were currently representing clients in ongoing social security disability claims
Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Discovery: "The Court finds no reason to order discovery in this FOIA case." "Defendant has submitted two declarations of agency personnel explaining in detail the process by which Defendant searched its records in response to Plaintiff's request." "These declarations outline Defendant's different databases containing information on representatives, state that only one of these databases is searchable by claim type, state how this database is populated and the nature of the data, and clarify, ultimately, why Defendant chose to search this particular database in this particular manner to respond effectively to Plaintiff's request." "Plaintiff, in response, offers no declarations, affidavits, or any evidence or argument suggesting that the Defendant's declarations were not in good faith."
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search & Exemption 6: The court holds that "there is no genuine dispute that Defendant conducted a reasonable search in response to Plaintiff's request." The court relates that "[d]efendant searched the Modernized Claims System ("MCS") database because that database was 'able to distinguish between disability claims and other claims,' as well as between attorneys and non-eligible non-attorneys." "[H]owever, the MCS database does not distinguish between personal and business addresses or telephones." "Therefore, because Defendant believed that personal contact information was exempt from FOIA, Defendant was unable to provide addresses at all, or telephone numbers for non-eligible non-attorneys." On this point, the court finds that "it is unclear how Plaintiff will use this information to 'shed light' on Defendant’s performance." "It is even more unclear why Plaintiff, who already has access to the names and phone numbers of every attorney representative for ongoing SSD claims in the country, would need the telephone numbers of non-eligible non-attorney representatives, or the mailing addresses of any representative, in order to shed this light." "The privacy interest that Defendant asserts, on the other hand, is serious." "Plaintiff would potentially obtain over a thousand personal addresses and telephone numbers – information that 'could subject [representatives] to an unchecked barrage of mailing and perhaps personal solicitations.'" "The public's interest in obtaining this personal information, if any, is outweighed by the privacy interest of these individuals."