Freedom of Information Act Ruling by Ninth Circuit Holds VA Wrong to Withhold Documents

In Yonemoto v. Department of Veterans Affairs (pdf), the Ninth Circuit addressed two questions about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):  1)  Was a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employee’s FOIA request made moot when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offered to allow the VHA employee to obtain copies of the documents in his capacity as a VHA employee; and (2) Could the VA withhold redacted portions of 9 other documents under FOIA Exemption 6, which allows an agency to withhold personnel, medical and similar files that would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy?

The FOIA, 5 U.S.C. §552, allows citizens to find out what their federal government is up to, consequently providing a check against corruption and holding government actors accountable.  FOIA

permit[s] access to official information long shielded unnecessarily from public view and attempt[s] to create a judicially enforceable public right to secure such information from possibly unwilling official hands.

(Opinion pdf page 7).

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