Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated. The Department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue. Please refer to the Department of Justice’s contingency plan for more information.

Lewis v. FAA, No. 13-00992, 2015 WL 94585 (D. Or. Jan. 6, 2015) (Hernandez, J.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lewis v. FAA, No. 13-00992, 2015 WL 94585 (D. Or. Jan. 6, 2015) (Hernandez, J.)

Re: Plaintiff's challenge of responses to nine appeals, failure to make timely determination of three appeals, and failure to make timely determination of two requests

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 6/Waiver:  First, regarding defendant's withholding of a "confidential, voluntary reporting of air traffic related safety and operational concerns," the court holds that "[g]iven the strong personal privacy interest at stake for the submitter of the . . . report and the fact that [another] Memorandum, with no redactions, has been made . . . public, Defendants are justified in withholding the production of the . . . report under Exemption 6 because the privacy interest outweighs the public's need to have this particular report."  The court explains that "[t]he previously produced [other] Memorandum provides more than sufficient information about the incident, including both the description of the alleged operational error and an allegation that the FAA failed to thoroughly investigate it."  "Moreover, while an assurance of confidentiality is not determinative, it is a relevant factor in assessing whether the individual has a protected privacy interest."

    Second, regarding the withholding of an employee name, the court finds that "[t]he employee who is the subject of the discipline has a significant privacy interest in keeping his or her name confidential."  "While the employee's name was already inadvertently released, [the court] agree[s] with Defendants that if an exemption justifiably applies to redact information in these documents protecting the identity of the employee, it should be redacted from other documents so as not to compound the error that was already made."

    Third, the court "order[s] Defendants to redact [a] [report of investigation]."  The court explains that, "[g]iven that Defendants found it appropriate to release some information to Plaintiff about the incident, it would be inconsistent to not order Defendants to release additional, consistent information about this incident provided that all identifying information is redacted."  "The [report of investigation] contains some additional details about the incident that are not already contained in the information previously provided in response to this request but which cannot be considered detrimental to employees' privacy concerns."  "Release of such additional information will still protect the employees' privacy interests while also allowing public access to information about how the agency handles personnel matters."
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court finds that "[p]laintiff fails to create an issue of fact regarding the agency's inability to locate [one] record responsive to this request"  "Plaintiff does not challenge the application of the five-year records retention policy or suggest that Defendants failed to properly search for the document."
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations
Updated April 21, 2015