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United States v. The Salvation Army Southern Territory

United States District Court, District Circuit

June 12, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner,
v.
THE SALVATION ARMY SOUTHERN TERRITORY AND THE SALVATION ARMY, Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN M. FACCIOLA, Magistrate Judge.

This case was referred to me by Judge Amy Jackson for full case management. Currently pending and ready for resolution is the United States of America's Petition to Enforce Subpoena Issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development [#1]. For the reasons described below, the petition will be granted, subject to certain conditions.

BACKGROUND

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") initiated an investigation of the Salvation Army, based on an administrative complaint alleging that the Salvation Army "discriminated against pregnant women because of their familial status and sex and men because of their sex in violation of the Fair Housing Act." [#1] at 3. In particular, the administrative complaint charges that a particular transitional housing program run by the Salvation Army, the Turning Point Center for Women and Children, terminated certain women from the program once they became pregnant. Id.

The Turning Point Center for Women and Children is a "transitional living facility" that "helps its participants break the cycle of chronic homelessness and joblessness." Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the United States' Petition to Enforce Subpoena [#7] at 3. Like all Salvation Army programs, the Turning Point Center follows the Salvation Army's "Policy and Guidelines on Confidentiality and the Protection of Personal Privacy." Id. at 4. The Salvation Army acknowledges that it terminated four women from the Turning Point Center program once they became pregnant, as "pregnancy is a grounds for dismissal from the program as a matter of program policy." Id. at 7.

As part of HUD's authority to investigate housing discrimination, conferred by Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, HUD issued subpoenas to the Salvation Army seeking information relevant to its investigation. [#1] at 3. In that subpoena, HUD requested copies of resident files for the women terminated from the housing program. Id . The Salvation Army provided the resident files, but redacted all personal identifying information, claiming that its national confidentiality policy "precluded it from disclosing the identities of program participants without consent of the residents, or a court order compelling such disclosure." Id . The Salvation Army did make some effort to contact the women at issue to obtain their consent, but this was unsuccessful. Id. at 4.

On August 30, 2012, HUD served the Salvation Army with the subpoena at issue here. Id . The Salvation Army responded once again that complying with the subpoena would violate the Salvation Army's internal policies regarding confidentiality and the privacy of program participants. Id. at 5. HUD then filed the instant action, seeking enforcement of the subpoena.

LEGAL STANDARD

It is well established that the court's role in a proceeding to enforce an administrative proceeding is "a strictly limited one." FTC v. Texaco , 555 F.2d 862, 871-72 (D.C. Cir. 1977). Under Supreme Court precedent, "so long as the investigation [is] for a lawfully authorized purpose, the documents sought [are] relevant to the inquiry, and the demand [is] reasonable, " the subpoena should be enforced. Id. at 872 (citing Oklahoma Press Publ'g Co. v. Walling , 327 U.S. 186, 216 (1946)); see also United States v. Morton Salt Co. , 338 U.S. 632, 652 (1950) ("[I]t is sufficient if the inquiry is within the authority of the agency, the demand is not too indefinite and the information sought is reasonably relevant.").

ANALYSIS

The Salvation Army objects to HUD's petition on three grounds: 1) that HUD is already in possession of the documents it seeks; 2) that the personal identifying information of the women who were terminated from the Turning Point Center is not relevant to HUD's investigation; and 3) that an independent review is necessary here because the subpoena implicates First Amendment concerns. [#7] at 6-9.

I. HUD is Not Already in Possession of the Documents it Seeks

The Salvation Army's first argument is without merit. HUD concedes that it has received the resident files for the women in question, but indicates that all identifying information was redacted. HUD is seeking the un-redacted versions of those files. Thus, HUD is ...


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