Can the United States Withhold Mug Shots Via FOIA?

February 26th, 2012

The 10th Circuit answered that question affirmatively in World Publishing Company v. United States Department of Justice.

The WSJLawBlog has the story:

The Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has ruled that federal authorities may withhold mugshots of federal prisoners from the public.

The ruling Wednesday puts the court in line with the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Only the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has determined that prisoners’ booking photos must be turned over under the Freedom of Information Act.

Politico notes that SCOTUS denied cert on a similar case from the 11th Circuit, notwithstanding the current split, so I’m not too worried about a grant here.

Fortunately, the Sixth Circuit works for me!

If a requester in a Sixth Circuit state asks for a mugshot, the Marshals service will release it and subsequently will release it to anyone. Many national news organizations now employ stringers in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee to request such photos for nationwide use.