MILNER v. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
09-1163
Petitioner 
Glen Scott Milner
Respondent 
Department of the Navy
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioner)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Glen Milner, a member of an organization dedicated to raising community awareness about the dangers of Navy training exercises near Puget Sound, sued the Department of the Navy in a Washington federal district court under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") to obtain the release of Navy documents relating to the effects of explosions at several locations. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Navy.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that documents relating to the effects of explosions constituted internal personnel rules and regulations of the agency which are subject to exemption from disclosure by the FOIA. The court reasoned that such documents are "predominantly" for internal agency use that present a risk, that if disclosed, would circumvent agency regulation.

Question 

Did the Ninth Circuit err by exempting documents relating to the effects of explosions from disclosure under the FOIA because they are "predominantly" for internal use and present a risk of circumventing agency regulation?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for Milner, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: FOIA

Yes. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision in an 8-1 opinion by Justice Elena Kagan. The majority opinion held that "because Exemption 2 encompasses only records relating to employee relations and human resources issues, the explosives maps and data requested here do not qualify for withholding under that exemption."

Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, in which he agreed with the judgment but noted: "I write separately to underscore the alternative argument that the Navy raised below, which rested on Exemption 7(F) and which will remain open on remand. " Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, backing the decision of the appeals court and writing that in this case, "I would let sleeping legal dogs lie."

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MILNER v. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 11 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_1163>.
MILNER v. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_1163 (last visited September 11, 2014).
"MILNER v. DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 11, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_1163.