Eil v. United States Drug Enforcement Administration, No. 16-2359 (1st Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 2011, Dr. Volkman was convicted of drug-related charges for illegally prescribing pain medication leading to the deaths of at least 14 individuals. Eil, a journalist writing a book on Volkman's case, attended portions of that public trial. In 2012, Eil submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the exhibits introduced by the government at the trial. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provided thousands of pages of responsive documents, some of which were redacted, but withheld the medical records of Volkman's living former patients and the death-related records of his deceased former patients. Eil sued to compel disclosure of the withheld records. The court granted Eil summary judgment, ordering the DEA to release the records with certain redactions. The First Circuit reversed. The district court's balancing of the public interest in disclosure against the relevant privacy interests was flawed because the court applied the wrong standard. The release of the requested records is unlikely to advance a valid public interest, given the amount of relevant information that Eil already has access to and the substantial privacy interests implicated by the records would outweigh any public interest in disclosure.