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GOODRICH v. DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

United States District Court, D. Columbia


August 22, 2005.

MICHAEL D. GOODRICH, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE, Defendant.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD LEON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION (August 19, 2005) [#4, #7]

Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Mr. Goodrich, the plaintiff, contends that the Department of the Air Force ("Air Force") violated the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") by refusing to release to him three documents relating to plaintiff's Air Force service. Upon consideration of the motions and the entire record herein, the Court GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment.

ANALYSIS

  Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and "the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56. A genuine issue of material fact is one that would affect the outcome of the litigation. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the party who bears the burden of proof on an issue at trial must "make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case" to establish a genuine dispute. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In a FOIA case, the agency is entitled to summary judgment if it demonstrates that no material facts are in dispute and that each document responsive to the FOIA request was either produced, unidentifiable, or exempt from disclosure. Students Against Genocide v. Dep't of State, 257 F.3d 828, 833 (D.C. Cir. 2001); Weisberg v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 627 F.2d 365, 368 (D.C. Cir. 1980); Goland v. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 607 F.2d 339, 352 (D.C. Cir. 1978); Nat'l Cable Television Ass'n Inc. v. F.C.C., 479 F.2d 183, 186 (D.C. Cir. 1973).

  Mr. Goodrich seeks the release of the minutes from three meetings held by the Air Force to examine his credentials to practice medicine.*fn1 Certain matters, however, are exempt from FOIA disclosure requirements. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). Exemption 3 permits the withholding of records that are specifically exempted from disclosure by statute, provided that such statute either requires that the matter be withheld from the public "in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue" or establishes "particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld." 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3). The Air Force cites 10 U.S.C § 1102 as preventing it from producing the minutes sought by Mr. Goodrich. Mot. Summ. J. at 9-10. Section 1102(f) provides that "[m]edical quality assurance records described in subsection (a) may not be made available to any person under [the FOIA]." 10 U.S.C. § 1102(f). Subsection (a) states that "medical quality assurance records created by or for the Department of Defense as part of a medical quality assurance program are confidential and privileged." Id. § 1102(a). The statute defines "medical quality assurance records" as the "proceedings, records, minutes, and reports that emanate from quality assurance program activities," such as review boards responsible for quality assurance, credentials, medical records, and health resource management review. 10 U.S.C. ¶ 1102(j)(1), (2).*fn2 Thus, the Court must first determine whether the three documents sought by Mr. Goodrich qualify as medical quality assurance records.

  The Deputy Surgeon General of the Air Force Medical Service, Major General Roudebush, indicates in his declaration that the activities of the Credentials Functions meetings and Medical Practice Review Boards ("MPRB") are part of the medical quality assurance program. Roudebash Decl. ¶ 23. Since the minutes of Credentials Functions meetings and MPRBs are medical quality assurance records, § 1102(f) prohibits Mr. Goodrich from obtaining these minutes through a FOIA request. In his opposition, Mr. Goodrich argues that the Air Force must release the minutes pursuant to the exceptions in § 1102(c)(1)(B) and § 1102(c)(1)(E).*fn3 Paragraph E allows the release of medical quality assurance records to "an officer, employee, or contractor of the Department of Defense." 10 U.S.C. § 1102(c)(1)(E). The plain language of the statute indicates that the release of medical quality assurance records is allowed to those individuals who are currently employed by the Department of Defense. Since plaintiff left military service nearly nine years ago, paragraph E does not provide a basis to allow the release of the documents that plaintiff seeks.

  Plaintiff further contends that paragraph B of § 1102 allows the release of the records in question. That paragraph states that medical quality assurance records may be disclosed "to an administrative or judicial proceeding commenced by a present or former Department of Defense health care provider concerning the termination, suspension, or limitation of clinical privileges of such health care provider." 10 U.S.C. § 1102(c)(1)(B). While defendant correctly notes that this statute allows the release of the documents in question to a proceeding, a FOIA request, however, is not such a proceeding. Therefore, paragraph B does not allow the release of medical quality assurance records sought by Mr. Goodrich are medical quality assurance records that are exempted from production under FOIA. Accordingly, defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.*fn4 CONCLUSION

  For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismisses the action in its entirety. An order consistent with this ruling accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

20050822

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