A federal district court in New York on Friday withdrew an opinion it issued last February in National Day Laborer Organizing Network v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency regarding access to metadata under the federal Freedom of Information Act. Last week, the parties reached a settlement in the case and agreed to withdraw an appeal that was pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City (2nd Cir.).
National Day Laborer Organizing Network had requested numerous records in electronic form from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency under FOIA. When the agency provided the records, they came in the form of large, unsearchable PDF files that lacked identifiable organization and related file metadata that would have better enabled the requester to review and process the disclosed information.
The district court's February opinion was significant as it was the first time a federal court addressed the issue of FOIA's applicability to metadata. In the opinion, the court held that metadata — information related to the history, tracking or management of an electronic document — must be released as part of a request for electronic documents under FOIA.
"Metadata maintained by the agency as a part of an electronic record is presumptively producible under FOIA, unless the agency demonstrates that such metadata is not 'readily producible,'" the court held.
The court said on Friday it withdrew the prior opinion "[i]n the interests of justice," finding that "subsequent submissions have shown, th[e] decision was not based on a full and developed record." It added that "[b]y withdrawing the decision, it is the intent of this Court that the decision shall have no precedential value in this lawsuit or in any other lawsuit."