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Wessler v. DOJ, No. 17-976, 2019 WL 1557166 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 2019) (Stein, J.)


Wessler v. DOJ, No. 17-976, 2019 WL 1557166 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 2019) (Stein, J.)


Re:  Request for records concerning conditions of confinement for federal pretrial detainees held in state, local, and private prison facilities with which USMS contracts to house those detainees


Disposition:  Denying defendant's motion for summary judgment; granting plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment

  • Exemption 7(C):  "[The] Court finds that the production of the documents does not constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."  Regarding the privacy interests, the court holds that "the decedents' privacy interest in their own medical records, although greatly diminished, is 'by no means extinguishe[d],' . . . and presumably remains more than de minimis."  Also, "[t]he Court agrees with defendants that the decedents’ family members have a privacy interest in the medical and autopsy records at issue here, even if the records do not depict graphic death scene images as in Favish."  "Turning to the public interest served in the release of these medical records, the Court finds that it is significant."  "The public has a right to know the circumstances under which people die while detained in the pretrial custody of USMS."  "Investigative reporting on topics such as this, far from impeding the public interest, actually enhances it."  "And while the fact that the BOP – not USMS – voluntarily released its full medical records to [plaintiff] does not waive USMS's right to seek to withhold them . . . it is certainly relevant that the BOP did not view these types of records as exempt from disclosure under FOIA."  "The government argues that no public interest is served by disclosure because 'the medical care and day-to-day oversight of prisoners was conducted by state, local, or private facilities.'"  "However, that blinks at the entire point of this exercise."  "The asserted purpose of [plaintiff's] reporting is to determine whether USMS failed to do what it is required to do – monitor the care provided to the detainees in these state, local, and private facilities."  "That is a core responsibility of USMS, as set forth on USMS’s own website."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(C)
Updated April 24, 2019