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Public Citizen v. Peters, Secretary of the Department of Transportation

Public Citizen sued the Department of Transportation for promulgating a regulation prohibiting disclosure of certain types of automobile safety information. Public Citizen argues that the regulation violate the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires disclosure of all records held by federal agencies unless an exemption to FOIA applies. On March 31, 2006, and July 31, 2006, the district court issued opinions agreeing with Public Citizen that the early warning data is releasable under FOIA and that the Transportation Department’s regulation exempting some of the data from release was unlawfully promulgated, but also holding that the agency did have authority to withhold some early warning data under FOIA exemptions.

Following the district court’s ruling, the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which had intervened in the case, filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, arguing that a statute exempted all of the data at issue from disclosure under FOIA. Public Citizen opposed the appeal. On July 22, 2008, the court of appeals ruled in our favor, rejecting the RMA’s argument that all early-warning data was exempt from release under FOIA.