Friday, July 31, 2015

A FOIL request and redaction.

Practice point:  Petitioner requested documents from the New York City Fire Department, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law.  The Fire Department provided copies of the documents, but with numerous items of information redacted.  After an in camera inspection of unredacted copies, the Supreme Court directed the Department to provide petitioner with legible unredacted copies.

The Appellate Division affirmed, to the extent that it found that the Department failed to articulate a particularized and specific justification for any of the redacted information at issue, except for the residence addresses contained in the subject documents. It found that the Department's conclusory assertions that the redacted information, other than residence addresses, fell within a statutory exemption were insufficient to meet its burden of demonstrating that the requested information was exempt from disclosure.

However, the Appellate Division concluded that disclosure of the residence addresses would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, as under the circumstances of this case, the privacy interests at stake outweigh the public interest in disclosure of that information.  It modified the judgment so as to permit redaction of the residence addresses.

Student note:  Under FOIL, government records are presumptively open for public inspection and copying unless they fall within a statutory exemption specified in Public Officers Law § 87(2).  The exemptions are narrowly construed in order to ensure maximum public access, and the burden rests on the agency to demonstrate that the requested material qualifies for exemption.  To meet its burden, the agency must articulate a particularized and specific justification for nondisclosure.

Case:  Matter of Villalobos v. New York City Fire Dept., NY Slip Op 06249 (2d Dept. 2015)

Here is the decision.

Monday's issue:  Doctrine of primary assumption of risk.