SCOTUS Resolves Split Re Interpretation of FOIA Exemption

The Supreme Court has resolved a split regarding the interpretation of Exemption 2 of the Freedom of Information Act. The case is Milner v. Navy, 09-1163 (Mar. 7, 2011). Here is an excerpt from the Syllabus of the case:

Petitioner Milner submitted FOIA requests for explosives data and maps used by respondent Department of the Navy (Navy or Government) in storing munitions at a naval base in Washington State. Stating that disclosure would threaten the security of the base and surrounding community, the Navy invoked Exemption 2 and refused to release the data. The District Court granted the Navy summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, relying on the High 2 interpretation.

Held: Because Exemption 2 encompasses only records relating to employee relations and human resources issues, the explosives maps and data requested here do not qualify for withholding under that exemption.

(a) Exemption 2 shields only those records relating to “personnel rules and practices.” When used as an adjective in this manner, the key statutory word “personnel” refers to human resources matters.


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