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NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION v. FAVISH et al., 541 U.S. 157

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NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION v. FAVISH et al.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

No. 02-954. Argued December 3, 2003--Decided March 30, 2004

Skeptical about five Government investigations' conclusions that Vincent Foster, Jr., deputy counsel to President Clinton, committed suicide, respondent Favish filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for, among other things, 10 death-scene photographs of Foster's body. The Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) refused the request, invoking FOIA Exemption 7(C), which excuses 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). Favish sued to compel production. In upholding OIC's exemption claim, the District Court balanced the Foster family's privacy interest against any public interest in disclosure, holding that the former could be infringed by disclosure and that Favish had not shown how disclosure would advance his investigation, especially in light of the exhaustive investigation that had already occurred. The Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that Favish need not show knowledge of agency misfeasance to support his request, and remanded the case for the interests to be balanced consistent with its opinion. On remand, the District Court ordered the release of five of the photographs. The Ninth Circuit affirmed as to the release of four.

Held:


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