Sikes v. United States Department of the Navy, No. 17-12421 (11th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records related to the suicide of Admiral J.M. Boorda. Specifically, plaintiff sought six pages of handwritten notes regarding official business found in the backseat of Adm. Boorda's official vehicle and the suicide note to Adm. Boorda's wife. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Navy improperly withheld the backseat notes because it withheld the responsive records when plaintiff asked for them. The court also held that FOIA contained nothing that would allow an agency to withhold records simply because it had previously given them to the requester, and the court rejected the Navy's argument that plaintiff's claim as to the backseat notes was precluded by the parties' prior litigation. The court also held that the suicide note was subject to protection under exemption 7(c), which covers records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes if their production could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings.