Another U.S. Appeals Court Rules Against FOIA Mugshot Disclosure


The federal government is under no obligation to release mugshots of accused criminals under the Freedom of Information Act, even though many states and localities make such booking photos public, says a federal appeals court ruling reported by The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit decision by a unanimous three-judge panel rejected a request by the Tulsa World for the booking photos of six people indicted by grand juries. The ruling was a victory for the Obama administration, which staunchly defended the longstanding federal non-disclosure policy for mugshots.

“There is little to suggest that disclosing booking photos would inform citizens of a government agency's adequate performance of its function. We agree with the district court that ‘disclosure of federal booking photographs is not likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of federal law enforcement operations or activities,'” said Judge Paul Kelly Jr. The decision leaves the federal appeals courts split. The Tenth and Eleventh have held mugshots exempt from FOIA and the Sixth found them subject to release. Many national news organizations now employ stringers in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee–states in the Sixth Circuit–to request photos for nationwide use.

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