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District of Columbia v. Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Dept. Labor Committee

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 12, 2013

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellant,
v.
FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT LABOR COMMITTEE, Appellee.

Argued Jan. 9, 2013.

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Mary L. Wilson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellant.

Paul A. Fenn, with whom Erinn M. Maguire, Baltimore, MD, was on the brief, for appellee.

Before GLICKMAN, BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, and BECKWITH, Associate Judges.

BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judge:

At issue in this appeal is whether the personal privacy exemption of the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" or the " Act" ) [1] protects from disclosure the names of Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) employees who submitted questions, comments, or concerns to the Chief of Police through an email account known as " Chief Concerns." The Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee (" FOP" ) seeks disclosure of the identities of the employees who sent emails to the " Chief Concerns" email account. The District of Columbia disclosed the content of the emails to FOP, but redacted the authors' identifying information. The trial court, in its award of summary judgment to FOP, ordered the District of Columbia to disclose the identities of the senders. On appeal, the District of Columbia asserts that the trial court erred by ordering it to disclose the identifying information because the information is exempt from disclosure under D.C.Code ยง 2-534(a)(2) (2001), the personal privacy exemption, of FOIA. We agree and we vacate, in part, the judgment of the trial court in so far as it ordered the District of Columbia to disclose the identifying information in the emails at issue. We enter judgment for the District of Columbia, as a matter of law, because the District is entitled to

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redact the identifying information under the personal privacy exemption of FOIA.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

" Chief Concerns" is an email account for messages submitted by MPD employees to the Chief of Police through the MPD's internal, employees-only intranet. Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier created the email account and announced to MPD employees that her office would hold the identities of employees who send email messages to the account in strict confidence, hoping employees would be less reluctant to submit questions, comments, or concerns to her. Lanier informed MPD employees of the " Chief Concerns" account and her pledge of confidentiality during roll call visits throughout the District, in the MPD's internal newsletter, and through her command staff. After Lanier created " Chief Concerns," MPD employees began sending emails to the account.

On June 13, 2008, FOP submitted a FOIA request to the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Technology Officer, seeking copies of all emails sent to or from the " Chief Concerns" email account in the preceding month. On November 14, 2008, having received no response to its FOIA request, FOP filed a complaint in the Superior Court. On June 25, 2009, FOP moved for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The District of Columbia subsequently began producing emails, albeit with certain redactions, to FOP. The production included emails submitted by employees to the " Chief Concerns" account and MPD's email responses. After repeated hearings before the trial judge, the dispute ultimately narrowed to eleven emails sent by employees to " Chief Concerns" where the District of Columbia produced the content of the emails but redacted the ...


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