Office of Independent Counsel v. Favish
Allan J. Favish filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking ten photographs taken during the police investigation of the death of Vincent Foster, the deputy counsel to former President Bill Clinton. FOIA exemption 7(C) prevents the release of information compiled for law enforcement purposes if the release would cause an invasion of personal privacy–in this case, of the Foster family. However, if the public usefulness of the information outweighs the invasion of privacy, the information must be released. Favish appealed when the district court denied his request based on written descriptions of the photographs. The court of appeals remanded the case for the district court to reconsider after viewing the photographs privately. The district court then concluded that the public interest in five of the photographs outweighed the privacy interest of the Foster family. The appeals court affirmed except as to one of the photographs.
The Freedom of Information Act’s Exemption 7(C) protects from disclosure “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes” if their production “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7)(C).
The question presented is: Whether the Office of Independent Counsel properly withheld as “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” under exemption 7(C) of the Freedom of Information Act, photographs relating to the death of former Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster.
Decisions under Review:
Ninth Circuit opinion, July 12, 2000, remanding case to the district court
District Court opinion, January 11, 2001, on remand; Appendix C to petition for writ of certiorari
Ninth Circuit order, June 6, 2002, on appeal from the district court; Appendix A to petition for writ of certiorari