484 F.2d 820: Robert G. Vaughn, Appellant, v. Bernard Rosen, Executive Director, United States Civilservice Commission, et al
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. - 484 F.2d 820
Argued June 7, 1973.Decided Aug. 20, 1973.Rehearing Denied Oct. 18, 1973
Ronald L. Plesser, Washington, D. C., with whom Alan B. Morrison, Washington, D. C., was on the brief, for appellant.
John C. Lenahan, Asst. U. S. Atty., with whom Harold H. Titus, Jr., U. S. Atty., John A. Terry and Derek I. Meier, Asst. U. S. Attys., were on the brief, for appellees.
Before ROBINSON and WILKEY, Circuit Judges, and FRANK A. KAUFMAN,* District Judge for the District of Maryland.
WILKEY, Circuit Judge:
Appellant sought disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act1 of various government documents, purportedly evaluations of certain agencies' personnel management programs. The District Court denied disclosure, presumably on the ground the documents fell within one or more exemptions to the FOIA.2 The scant record makes it impossible to determine if the information sought by appellant is indeed exempt from disclosure; we must remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Overall responsibility to evaluate, oversee, and regulate the personnel management activities of the various federal agencies rests with the Civil Service Commission.3 The Bureau of Personnel Management, the arm of the Civil Service Commission for this task, works with the agencies in evaluating their personnel management programs. After each evaluation is complete, the Bureau issues a report entitled Evaluation of Personnel Management. These evaluations assess the personnel policies of a particular agency and set forth recommendations and policies customarily adopted by both agencies and Commission.4 Appellant, a law professor doing research into the Civil Service Commission, sought disclosure of these evaluations and certain other special reports of the Bureau of Personnel Management.5
The Director of the Bureau of Personnel Management Evaluation declined to release the documents sought.6 This refusal to disclose was sustained by the Executive Director of the Civil Service Commission, who asserted that the information was exempt from disclosure because it (1) related solely to the internal rules and practices of an agency;7 (2) constituted inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency;8 and (3) was composed of personal and medical files, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.9
* * *
"5 U.S.C. Sec. 552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings
"(a) Each agency shall make available to the public information as follows:
"(1) Each agency shall separately state and currently publish in the Federal Register for the guidance of the public-
"(A) descriptions of its central and field organization and the established places at which, the employees (and in the case of a uniformed service, the members) from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submittals or requests, or obtain decisions;
"(B) statements of the general course and methods by which its functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available;
"(C) rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports, or examinations;
"(D) substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency; and
"(E) each amendment, revision, or repeal of the foregoing.
Except to the extent that a person has actual and timely notice of the terms thereof, a person may not in any manner be required to resort to, or be adversely affected by, a matter required to be published in the Federal Register and not so published. For the purpose of this paragraph, matter reasonably available to the class of persons affected thereby is deemed published in the Federal Register when incorporated by reference therein with the approval of the Director of the Federal Register.
"(2) Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection and copying-
"(A) final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases;
"(B) those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register; and
"(C) administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public;
unless the materials are promptly published and copies offered for sale. To the extent required to prevent a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, an agency may delete identifying details when it makes available or publishes an opinion, statement of policy, interpretation, or staff manual or instruction. However, in each case the justification for the deletion shall be explained fully in writing. Each agency also shall maintain and make available for public inspection and copying a current index providing identifying information for the public as to any matter issued, adopted, or promulgated after July 4, 1967, and required by this paragraph to be made available or published. A final order, opinion, statement of policy, interpretation, or staff manual or instruction that affects a member of the public may be relied on, used, or cited as precedent by an agency against a party other than an agency only if-
"(i) it has been indexed and either made available or published as provided by this paragraph; or
"(ii) the party has actual and timely notice of the terms thereof.
"(3) Except with respect to the records made available under paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection, each agency, on request for identifable records made in accordance with published rules stating the time, place, fees to the extent authorized by statute, and procedure to be followed, shall make the records promptly available to any person. On complaint, the district court of the United States in the district in which the complainant resides, or has his principal place of business, or in which the agency records are situated, has jurisdiction to enjoin the agency from withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant. In such a case the court shall determine the matter de novo and the burden is on the agency to sustain its action. In the event of noncompliance with the order of the court, the district court may punish for contempt the responsible employee, and in the case of a uniformed service, the responsible member. Except as to causes the court considers of greater importance, proceedings before the district court, as authorized by this paragraph, take precedence on the docket over all other causes and shall be assigned for hearing and trial at the earliest practicable date and expedited in every way.
"(4) Each agency having more than one member shall maintain and make available for public inspection a record of the final votes of each member in every agency proceeding.
"(b) This section does not apply to matters that are-
"(1) specifically required by Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of the national defense or foreign policy;
"(2) related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency;
"(3) specifically exempted from disclosure by statute;
"(4) trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential;
"(5) inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency;
"(6) personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
"(7) investigatory files compiled for law enforcement purposes except to the extent available by law to a party other than an agency;
"(8) contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions; or
"(9) geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.
"(c) This section does not authorize withholding of information or limit the availability of records to the public, except as specifically stated in this section. This section is not authority to withhold information from Congress."
The trial court below granted appellee's motion for summary judgment without giving any reasons for its action. We do not, therefore, know why the District Court found the documents to be exempt from disclosure
See Exec.Order 9830 (24 Feb. 1947)
The documents under discussion are not a part of the record on appeal; the court does not, therefore, know precisely what is contained in the evaluations. Both parties, however, seem to agree that the general nature of the documents is as we have described them in the text. We may, therefore, accept this description for purposes of our discussion
The documents other than the evaluations were described as "special studies of the Commission for fiscal years 1969-72." The exact nature of these "special studies" does not appear from the record, but it appears that they deal with the same general issues as do the evaluations
Letter of Gilbert A. Schulkind (15 June 1972) (Joint App. at 15)
The FOIA provides that
this section does not apply to matters that are
related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency . . . .
5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(2) (1970).
The FOIA provides that
This section does not apply to matters that are
inter-agency and intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.
5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(5) (1970).
The FOIA provides that
This section does not apply to matters that are
personal and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(6) (1970).
See footnote 1, supra
"The Legislative plan creates a liberal disclosure requirement limited only by specific exemptions, which are to be narrowly construed." Getman v. N. L. R. B., 146 U. S.App.D.C. 209, 211, 450 F.2d 670, 672, stay denied, 404 U.S. 1204, 92 S.Ct. 7, 30 L.Ed. 2d 8 (1971). See also Bristol-Myers v. F. T. C., 138 U.S.App.D.C. 22, 25, 424 F.2d 935, 938, cert. denied, 400 U.S. 824, 91 S.Ct. 46, 27 L.Ed.2d 52 (1970); M. A. Shapiro & Co. v. S. E. C., 339 F.Supp. 467, 469 (D.D. C.1972)
See 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(a)(3) (1970)
5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(1) (1970)
5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(5) (1970)
In E. P. A. v. Mink, 410 U.S. 73, 92-93, 93 S.Ct. 827, 35 L.Ed.2d 119 (1973), the Supreme Court provided guidance for the trial court regarding when it should conduct an in camera examination. The Court made it clear that it was not always necessary for a court to conduct an in camera examination
See footnotes 7-9, supra
It may be, of course, that the exempt and the non-exempt portions are so inextricably intertwined that it is impossible to separate them. The issue of whether they are intertwined is, itself, a matter of fact which must be determined by the trial court as the trier of fact. See E. P. A. v. Mink, 410 U. S. 73, 92, 93 S.Ct. 827, 35 L.Ed.2d 119 (1973)
This requirement is clearly mandated by the Supreme Court's language in Mink:
An agency should be given the opportunity, by means of detailed affidavits or oral testimony, to establish to the satisfaction of the District Court that the documents sought fall clearly beyond the range of material . . . [subject to disclosure].
E. P. A. v. Mink, 410 U.S. 73, 93, 93 S.Ct. 827, 839, 35 L.Ed.2d 119 (1973) (emphasis added).
In E. P. A. v. Mink, ibid., the Supreme Court made the following relevant comment:
[T]he Agency may demonstrate, by surrounding circumstances, that particular documents are purely advisory and contain no separable, factual information. A representative document of those sought may be selected for in camera inspection. And, of course, the agency may itself disclose the factual portions of the contested documents and attempt to show, again by circumstances, that the excised portions constitute the bare bones of protected matter.
In employing these techniques approved by the Court the agency should be careful that it does not discuss only the representative example while ignoring the bulk of the documents which may be disclosable. Such a course of action is not permissible under the Court's language in Mink and would lead to the undesirable result of sweeping disclosable material under a blanket allegation of exemption.
In our opinion in Sterling Drug, Inc. v. F. T. C., 146 U.S.App.D.C. 237, 450 F.2d 698 (1971), we remanded a FOIA case to the trial court because it was impossible to determine from the record if the trial court had considered whether all of the disputed information was exempt or whether part was exempt and part not. There we said:
We must agree, however, that there is no indication in the opinion below that the judge considered the possibility of deleting portions of the documents. It may well be that making deletions would not change the character of these documents, since they appear to consist primarily of the thoughts and recommendations of the Commission and its staff. However, there may be appendices or statements of facts which are clearly subject to disclosure. See Soucie v. David, 145 U.S.App. D.C. 144 at 155, 448 F.2d 1067 at 1078 (1971). We must therefore remand the case so that the District Court judge can consider this possibility and state in his opinion that he has done so.
146 U.S.App.D.C. at 243, 450 F.2d at 704. This case is similar in that we have no way of determining the scope of the trial court's determination of exemption. From all that appears on the record, the trial judge's determination was that he found all information exempt under all three of the alleged exemptions. This inability to determine which exemptions apply to what portions of the information gives rise to the need for an adequate indexing system such as described above.
In this regard, administrative agencies should consider the example set by government investigative agencies following the passage of the Jencks Act. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3500 (1970). Confronted with a Congressional mandate to disclose information relevant to the testimony of witnesses in criminal trials, investigative agencies adopted procedures that assured proper disclosure. Investigative reports were prepared in a form in which the portions to which defense counsel should have access were easily removed from the file and made available to the defense counsel. Other parts of the file were kept segregated and relatively few problems were encountered