Prudential Locations LLC v. HUD

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 10-09-2013
  • Case #: 09-16995
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judges Tashima and W. Fletcher; Dissent by Circuit Judge Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

Exemption 6 of the Freedom of Information Act allows an agency to protect the identity of someone who has complained to a federal agency about a violation of law.

Prudential Locations (“Prudential”) filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) regarding names of people who “complained to HUD that Prudential had violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.” HUD redacted the documents requested to conceal the author’s identity as justified under Exemption 6 of the FOIA, which covers files, such as personnel and medical files, where disclosing the author’s identity would be a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The district court held that Exemption 6 justified the redaction and entered summary judgment in favor of HUD. Prudential appealed, and the Ninth Circuit initially reversed. After the government petitioned for rehearing, the panel held that the two complaints, one letter and one e-mail, were “similar files” because Prudential did not contest their status on appeal. After balancing a “nontrivial privacy interest” against the “public interest in disclosure,” the panel also held that disclosure of the author’s identity “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” The complaints were “similar files” under Exemption 6 of the FOIA, and the author had a “reasonable expectation[] that HUD would protect their confidentiality even without a specific request that it do so.” Also, because revealing a private individual’s identity “does not further the public interest unless it casts light on the conduct of the government,” HUD was justified in redacting the documents requested by Prudential. AFFIRMED.

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