United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge
before the court is Defendant Federal Aviation
Administration's (“FAA”) Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. 12). For the reasons below, the Court grants
the motion in part and denies the motion in part.
August 2015 and February 2016, Plaintiff Jorge Rojas filed at
least six Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”)
requests with Defendant Federal Aviation Administration
(“FAA”). As a general theme, the FOIA requests
concern FAA's February 2014 policy change for hiring Air
Traffic Control Specialists. The National Black Coalition of
Federal Aviation Employees (“NBCFAE”) lobbied for
certain aspects of the new hiring policy. As part of this
change, the FAA no longer formally preferred students
participating in specified college programs under the
Qualified Applicant Register. This policy change negatively
impacted Mr. Rojas's application to work as an Air
Rojas filed a complaint in Federal Court seeking an order
against the FAA to produce the requested records. (Doc. 1).
The FAA subsequently filed this Motion for Summary Judgment.
Court grants summary judgment when the movant “shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law determines which facts
are material, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law
will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). The moving party bears the burden to show that there
are no genuine disputes of material fact. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
FOIA context, courts review an agency's decision whether
or not to disclose de novo. 5 U.S.C. §
552(a)(4)(B); see also Louis v. United States Dep't
of Labor, 419 F.3d 970, 977 (9th Cir. 2005) (de novo
review “requir[es] no deference to the agency's
determination or rationale regarding disclosures”).
However, courts “accord substantial weight to an
affidavit of an agency concerning the agency's
determination as to technical feasibility . . . and
reproducibility.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). If the
FOIA dispute presents a genuine issue of material fact,
courts proceed to a bench trial or adversary hearing.
Animal Legal Def. Fund v. U.S. Food & Drug
Admin., 836 F.3d 987, 990 (9th Cir. 2016).
proper request, federal agencies must disclose records to a
member of the public. 5 U.S.C. § 552. Nine categories of
records are exempt from disclosure. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b).
The government has the burden of demonstrating that an
exemption applies. Shannahan v. I.R.S., 672 F.3d
1142, 1148 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Lahr v. Nat'l
Transp. Safety Bd., 569 F.3d 964, 973 (9th Cir. 2009)).
When responding to a FOIA request, the government must
provide “tailored reasons” to justify
withholding, and “may not respond with boilerplate or
conclusory statements.” Shannahan, 672 F.3d at
1148 (citing Wiener v. F.B.I., 943 F.2d 972, 978-79
(9th Cir. 1991)).
issue in this case are Exemptions 6, 7(A), 7(C), and Glomar.
does not require federal agencies to disclose personnel files
when disclosing them would constitute a clearly unwarranted
invasion of personal privacy. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6).
Courts first evaluate whether disclosure implicates a privacy
interest that is nontrivial or more than de minimis.
Yonemoto v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 686 F.3d
681, 693 (9th Cir. 2012). Then, if the privacy interest in
nontrivial, the court balances the public interest against
the privacy interest. Courts weigh these interests with a
strong presumption in favor of disclosure. Id.
law gives several definitions of nontrivial privacy
interests. A nontrivial disclosure is an impermissible public
intrusion that violates the common law or cultural
traditions. Cameranesi v. U.S. Dep't of Def.,
856 F.3d 626, 638 (9th Cir. 2017) (citations omitted). A
nontrivial disclosure impacts people's control of
information about themselves. Id. (citations
omitted). A nontrivial disclosure subjects individuals to
possible embarrassment, harassment, or the risk of
mistreatment. Id. (citations omitted).
interest must be “more specific than having the
information for its own sake.” Yonemoto, 686
F.3d at 694 (quotation omitted). Public interest should show
an agency's performance of its statutory duties or
informs citizens about actual government operations.
Id. at 693 (citations omitted). Personnel
information that “reveals little or nothing about an
agency's own conduct is not the type of information to
which FOIA permits access.” Cameranesi, 856
F.3d at 640 (quotation omitted). Courts do not consider the
FOIA requester's personal interest to obtain the