Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, Inc. v. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

The Law Center challenged the CDC’s interpretation of a federal statute as the basis for withholding all information regarding an inspection at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. According to media reports, the inspection found “widespread regulatory non-compliance” at the UH labs that handle biological toxins.  But the CDC denied access to the inspection report in its entirety, citing a law that only authorized redaction of information that met specific criteria.  After the CDC disclosed a redacted version of the inspection records during summary judgment briefing, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright granted in part and denied in part the parties’ respective motions by written order on August 30, 2016.  Case No. 1:16-cv-00008-JMS-KSC.  The Law Center filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 26, 2016.  No. 16-16960. After initial briefing completed on appeal, the CDC released a less redacted version of the inspection records.  On July 10, 2019, the Ninth Circuit overturned the CDC’s interpretation of the federal statute as it concerned references to the University of Hawaii and its personnel; vacated the District Court’s interpretation of the federal statute as it concerned references to regulatory deficiencies because the CDC released that information on appeal, mooting the issue; and affirmed redacting the identity of the CDC employees who inspected UH because no evidence of public interest in their identities was proffered.  On remand, the case settled with the CDC’s disclosure of the requested records, redacting only the identity of CDC employees who inspected UH.