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Central Platte Natural Resources District v United States Department of Agriculture

Case No. 10-3205 (C.A. 8, Jun. 27, 2011)

Central Platte Natural Resources District (Central Platte) sought disclosure of geospatial data from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Farm Service Agency (collectively the USDA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. The district court dismissed Central Platte's APA claim on the ground that it already had an adequate remedy and granted summary judgment on its FOIA claim on the ground that the USDA was not required to disclose the requested geospatial data. Central Platte now appeals the district court's rulings. We affirm.

I.



Central Platte is a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska which is responsible for administering various programs related to the state's natural resources. A Nebraska statute authorizes Central Platte to cooperate with agencies, such as the USDA, to carry out projects for the benefit of the district. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 2-3235. To that end Central Platte has entered into several agreements with USDA agencies. For example, Central Platte cooperates with the USDA in its Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program which seeks to restore wildlife habitat and protect environmentally sensitive land.

Under a cooperative agreement with a USDA agency, Central Platte was specifically obligated to provide the agency with a specialist to help it develop a Geographic Information System (GIS). GIS is a computer system that assembles, stores, manipulates, and displays geospatial information. GIS data may be used to produce flood maps, conduct the census, and respond to natural hazards. The USDA informally shared the GIS data with Central Platte for a period of time, but stopped in 2005 because the data identifies individual farm owners, operators, borrowers, and other agricultural producers.

In July 2008, Central Platte requested that the USDA release GIS data related to farmland in eleven Nebraska counties. It brought its request under the federal Privacy Act, which requires agencies to withhold private information about individuals unless the data falls within a published "routine use." 5 U.S.C. § 552a. The USDA can disclose the requested GIS data pursuant to twenty five published routine uses. Revision to the Privacy Act System of Records Notice, 72 Fed. Reg. 70559, 70563 (Dec. 12, 2007). Central Platte specifically cited two of the USDA's routine use exceptions in support of its request. In August 2008, before the USDA had responded to the Privacy Act request, Central Platte submitted a FOIA request for the same data.
 

 

Judge(s): Diana Murphy
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Related Categories: Administrative Law , Communications , Government / Politics
 
Circuit Court Judge(s)
Arlen Beam
Steven Colloton
Diana Murphy

 
Trial Court Judge(s)
Warren Urbom

 
Appellant Lawyer(s) Appellant Law Firm(s)
Donald Blankenau Blankenau Wilmoth LLP
Thomas Wilmoth Blankenau Wilmoth LLP

 
Appellee Lawyer(s) Appellee Law Firm(s)
Deborah Gilg United States Department of Justice
Robert Homan United States Department of Justice
John Koppel United States Department of Justice
Leonard Schaitman United States Department of Justice
Tony West United States Department of Justice

 

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Click the maroon box above for a formatted PDF of the decision.
workers, inc., the district court only reviewed de novo whether a relevant agency discretion to disclose." id. at 336. review de novo the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss. blankenship v. usa complaint, alleging that the usda violated the apa in refusing to release the data determined, after de novo review, that the 2008 farm bill is a withholding statute for (9th cir. 1984), called it "inconceivable" that congress intended such "an irrational u.s. dep't of homeland sec., 489 f.3d 1173, 1189 (11th cir. 2007). a claimant may a withholding statute under foia exemption 3 so that the usda was not required to specifically obligated to provide the agency with a specialist to help it develop a the universal practice. for instance, the court in long v. i.r.s.,742 f.2d 1173, 1181 it explained that it would not release the gis data under foia because central platte a nebraska statute authorizes central platte to cooperate with agencies, such as the the foia provided an adequate alternative remedy. central platte argues that it can to cooperators under limited circumstances. 7 u.s.c. 8791(2)(3)(a)(i). the central platte natural resources * 70559, 70563 (dec. 12, 2007). central platte specifically cited two of the usda's existing review mechanisms. walsh, 400 f.3d at 538. such a duplication would produce flood maps, conduct the census, and respond to natural hazards. the usda for the same data. v. u.s. dep't of justice, 30 f.3d 224, 235 (1st cir. 1994). if the district court u.s.c. 552(a)(4)(b) (permitting a court to order the production of documents district court then went on to consider whether the usda's decision not to disclose united states court of appeals review, 830 f.2d at 337, but also stated that it "[did] not rule" on whether that would decides if a statute is a withholding statute and then determines "whether the awaiting a response, central platte sued the usda in federal court in september u.s.c. 704. congress did not mean for the apa's review procedures to duplicate informally shared the gis data with central platte for a period of time, but stopped routine uses. revision to the privacy act system of records notice, 72 fed. reg. nonmoving party. comcast of ill. x v. multi-vision elecs., inc., 491 f.3d 938, 943 -9- for these reasons we affirm the judgment of the district court. central platte timely appealed the foia decision in july 2009. while still a relevant statute and the inclusion of withheld material within that statute's the usda can disclose the requested gis data pursuant to twenty five published finding that the claim was barred because foia provided central platte with an responsible foradministeringvariousprogramsrelated to thestate's natural resources. bill qualified as a withholding statute and then reviewing for abuse of discretion the foia therefore provides central platte with an "adequate remedy in a court." 5 claim on the ground that the usda was not required to disclose the requested -8- environmentally sensitive land. * district court for the before murphy, beam, and colloton, circuit judges. release or disclose the information" to those "working in cooperation with the endeavors. bill and central platte's request fell within that prohibition. the district court's de service agency (collectively the usda) under the freedom of information act district court erred in those determinations. the disclose of "geospatial data . . . about agricultural land or operations . . . ." 7 2009, alleging that the refusal to release the gis data violated foia. the usda then the first circuit has decided, however, that any additional review of an agency's * 1113, 1116 (9th cir. 2010) (holding that 7 u.s.c. 8791 satisfies the requirements because the district court would twice determine whether the agency should be the requested gis data. the district court also dismissed central platte's apa claim, material fact exist. pendleton v. quiktrip corp., 567 f.3d 988, 992 (8th cir. 2009). decisionshould be done "under moredeferential,administrative lawstandards"which remedy under the apa includes more than disclosure of documents, such as district court's limited de novo review was appropriate here because there is no chao, 587 f. supp. 2d 90, 9798 (d.d.c. 2008). a party may advance an apa claim ii. for example, central platte cooperates with the usda in its conservation reserve -2- foia generally mandates broad disclosure of government records. see 5 generally a district court reviews foia complaints "de novo," 5 u.s.c. cir. 1987) (citation omitted). if a statute qualifies for foia exemption 3, then the here, by contrast, central platte seeks declaratory judgment and a court order under the apa an entity aggrieved by final agency action is entitled to judicial filed: june 27, 2011 factual contents of specific documents; the sole issue for decision is the existence of and that central platte did not qualify for the cooperator exception because it had not i. the district court's de novo review then properly ended. while courts disagree district, * -5- secretary in any department program . . . when providing technical or financial disclosed but then provides that the agency "may release or disclose the information" undertake whether the district court's additional layer of review was in error because enhancement program which seeks to restore wildlife habitat and protect ass'n of retired r.r. workers, inc. v. u.s. r.r. ret. bd., 830 f.2d 331, 332 (d.c. pursuant to foia). in instances where a foia exemption prohibits disclosure, "the the district court in this case determined that the 2008 farm bill qualified as ends." id. (citation omitted). foia specifically bars judicial review of an apa claim where the claimant central platte is a political subdivision of the state of nebraska which is distinguishes this case from radack. there, the claimant had requested monetary geospatial data from the united states department of agriculture and the farm requiring the production of documents under both its apa claim and its foia claim. conservation practices . . . ." 7 u.s.c. 8791(3)(a)(i). central platte contended that * capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise contrary to law. 1004 (9th cir. 1998) (holding that a court lacks jurisdiction over an apa claimwhere individuals unless the data falls within a published "routine use." 5 u.s.c. 552a. central platte's foia claim, holding that the department was not required to disclose limiting the course of de novo review in foia exemption 3 cases has not been (8th cir. 2007). summary judgment is appropriate where no genuine issues of assistance with respect to the agricultural operation, agricultural land, or farming or routine use exceptions in support of its request. in august 2008, before the usda had responded to the privacy act request, central platte submitted a foia request seeks "a court order" to produce the same documents under both foia and the apa. to central platte's privacy act request. dispute that the 2008 farm bill qualified for foia exemption 3 status or that the gis not required to disclose the requested gis data. the district court first properly disclose the requested gis data. in making that determination, the district court be withheld . . . ." 5 u.s.c. 552(b)(3)(a)(ii). purposes of foia exemption 3. the statute specifically contains a "prohibition" on usda, to carry out projects for the benefit of the district. neb. rev. stat. 2-3235. 552(a)(4)(b), but the statutory de novo standard has been modified in foia central platte cited an exception in the statute, which provides that an agency "may geographic information system (gis). gis is a computer system that assembles, determines that these two requirements are met, then "foia de novo review normally we disagree. central platte's requested relief under both foia and the apa denied central platte's appealof theagency'sfoiadetermination in november2009. result if both central platte's apa and foia claims proceeded simultaneously other agricultural producers. claim is barred. irs, 973 f.2d 962, 967 (1st cir. 1992). data fell within the statute. furthermore, the 2008 farm bill, like the statute at issue claims under both the apa and the privacy act for improper disclosure of agency's determination not to disclose the requested data. the district court further like the court in ass'n of retired railroad workers, inc., we need not no. 10-3205 ___________ review. 5 u.s.c. 702. while a presumption exists to permit judicial review of employed a "hybrid" standard of review, reviewing de novo whether the 2008 farm ___________ relief under the privacy act and declaratory and injunctive relief under the apa. id. the district court dismissed central platte's apa claim because it found that while its foia claim arises out of an alleged violation of that statute. central platte the honorable warren k. urbom, united states district judge for the district1 stores, manipulates, and displays geospatial information. gis data may be used to exceptions to foia's general disclosure principles. 5 u.s.c. 552(b). relevant here privacy act, which requires agencies to withhold private information about sustain its apa claim because it stems from an alleged violation of the privacy act -3- circumstances where a withholding statute has given an agency discretion to disclose the data under the limited cooperator exception in the 2008 farm bill was arbitrary, withholding statue existed andwhether the requested data fell within that statute. 830 disclose the gis data under the privacy act's routine use exceptions. agency decisions, the apa only allows review where there exists "no other adequate u.s.c. 552; c.i.a. v. sims, 471 u.s. 159, 166 (1985). congress has recognized, -6- "met the criteria established for certification as an organization that is working in this limited de novo review may define the entire scope of review in foia that it already had an adequate remedy and granted summary judgment on its foia -7- ___________ appellant, * appeal from the united states iii. remedy in a court." 5 u.s.c. 704; brem-air disposal v. cohen, 156 f.3d 1002, decides only whether the agency's action was arbitrary and capricious. aronson v. always complete "the requisite scope of review in exemption 3 cases." id. at 336. exemption 3 cases. in such cases, a district court reviews de novo whether the statute specifically distinguished the ninth circuit's long decision, holding that the "statute (foia), 5 u.s.c. 552, and the administrative procedure act (apa), 5 u.s.c. in making both requests central platte acknowledged that the 2008 farm bill, in 2005 because the data identifies individual farm owners, operators, borrowers, and of nebraska. congress has provided an adequate alternative remedy under another statute). agriculture; farm service agency, * f.2d at 332. in finding the limited de novo review appropriate, the d.c. circuit information sought after falls within the boundaries of the non-disclosure statute." murphy, circuit judge. cooperation with the usda on a department program." the letter did not respond did not need the information to fulfill its role as a cooperator. the usda also stated from other foia exemptions because "its applicability depends less on the detailed simultaneously pursue claims under the apa and foia, however, if the requested supp. 2d 99, 104 (d.d.c. 2005) (citation omitted). to that end central platte has entered into several agreements with usda agencies. central platte natural resources district (central platte) sought disclosure of construction" in foia exemption 3 cases. nevertheless, it has been limited in however, that some information must remain confidential and has created nine required to disclose the same data. moreover, central platte's apa claim remains 336. congress expressly prohibited the disclosure of the gis data in the 2008 farm 701 et seq. the district court dismissed central platte's apa claim on the ground1 facts and making all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the adequate remedy would effectively make unreviewable the usda's decision not to ___________ of retired railroad workers, inc.], by contrast turns on a provision that gives an nonmoving party. crooks v. lynch, 557 f.3d 846, 848 (8th cir. 2009). submitted: may 11, 2011 suggested that "[n]o more was required" after a district court completed its de novo the usda denied central platte's foia request in a june 2009 letter. it walsh v. u.s. dep't of veteran affairs, 400 f.3d 535, 53738 (7th cir. 2005); see 5 novo review of these findings was all that was required, and it did not err in privacy act makes such withholding mandatory upon the agency." news-press v. under a cooperative agreement with a usda agency, central platte was it qualified for that exception because it cooperates with the usda on many farm bill is a withholding statute within the meaning of foia exemption 3 and that it is clear that limited de novo review "can satisfy foia" in this case. 830 f.2d at asserts that this case is similar to radack,where theplaintiff could concurrentlyassert ______________________________ adequate remedy. central platte appeals those rulings. is foia exception 3 which permits nondisclosure if another statute specifically concluding that the usda was not required to disclose the gis data. cited routine uses were inapplicable. as a result central platte amended its exemption 3 cases. the d.c. circuit, in ass'n of retired railroad workers, inc. that central platte could not obtain the gis data under the privacy act because the exempts the information from disclosure and "refers to particular types of matters to information that would otherwise be withheld, as opposed to discretion to withhold in ass'n of retired railroad workers, inc., presumes that gis data should not be of a withholding statute under foia exemption 3). the parties agree that the 2008 the district court granted the usda's motion for summary judgment on we conclude that the district court did not err in deciding that the usda was arguably falls within the ambit of the withholding statute. church of scientology int'l united states department of * u.s.c. 8791(b)(2)(b); see also ctr. for biological diversity v. usda, 626 f.3d we review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment, viewing all procedures for review of an agency action." radack v. u.s. dep't of justice, 402 f. as well as another type of claim only if the apa claim does not duplicate "existing agency need not disclose the requested data. id. at 333. exemption 3 is different coverage." goland v. c.i.a., 607 f.2d 339, 350 (d.c. cir. 1978). about limiting de novo review in foia exemption 3 cases, we conclude that the -4- explained that the 2008 farm bill exempted the usda from disclosing the gis data at issue in long stated criteria by which disclosure could be defeated . . . [and ass'n for the eighth circuit codified at 7 u.s.c. 8791, prohibits the disclosure of "geospatial information." information. id. central platte further argues that a finding that foia provides an concluded that no issues of material fact remained. central platte contends that the when determining whether foia exemption 3 is applicable, the court first all facts in the complaint as true and grant all reasonable inferences in favor of the the usda to disclose the gis data. we therefore hold that central platte's apa v. * district of nebraska. central platte also appeals the district court's dismissal of its apa claim. we qualifies for foia exemption 3 and whether the requested information at least vindication for a first amendment violation. nat'l ass'n of waterfront emp'rs v. * data that would otherwise be available. for example, in ass'n of retired railroad the requested gis data fell within it. in july 2008, central platte requested that the usda release gis data related ___________ to farmland in eleven nebraska counties. it brought its request under the federal under the privacy act's routine use exceptions. subject to the 2008 farm bill which, as we have already determined, did not require geospatial data. central platte now appeals the district court's rulings. we affirm. appellees. * truck, inc., 601 f.3d 852, 853 (8th cir. 2010). in conducting our review, we accept


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