The federal government asked a federal appeals court yesterday to block the compelled disclosure of mug shots, citing the “substantial” privacy interests of defendants, the National Law Journal reports. The U.S. Department of Justice is fighting a Michigan judge's ruling in a suit brought by the Detroit Free Press over access to mugs of four police officers charged in a drug and bribery conspiracy. A provision of the Freedom of Information Act allows the government to withhold mug shots, the department told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Mug shots, the government argues, reveal “an otherwise private event in which the individual is captured at 'a humiliating moment.'” The U.S. Marshals Service denied the Free Press' FOIA request for the officers' mug shots, saying the disclosure “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.” A federal trial judge ordered the government to release the mug shots but put the ruling on hold pending appeal. Herschel Fink, attorney for the Free Press, said, “there is simply no privacy interest in mug shots of persons who have been indicted and who are actively being prosecuted.”