Every journalist who requests records from the federal government through the Freedom of Information Act should be familiar with its administrative appeals process. Unfortunately, for various reasons, federal agencies at times fail to adhere to FOIA’s disclosure requirements. When this occurs, journalists are not without recourse. They can appeal adverse decisions to higher authorities within an agency and often must in order to enforce their rights.
The Detroit Free Press sued the DOJ for the release of mugshots taken by the U.S. Marshals Service under the Freedom of Information Act. The trial court held for DFP, and the government appealed to the 6th Circuit. Our brief argues that neither constitutional nor common law recognizes a privacy interest in photographs of persons who have been arrested and indicted, and appeared in open court, specifically noting that mugshots are open or presumably open to the public under the laws of at least 40 states. The brief also argues that even if there is a privacy interest in mugshots, it is outweighed by the public interest in their disclosure.