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Torres Consulting & Law Grp., LLC v. NASA

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

November 17, 2016, Submitted, San Francisco, California1; November 21, 2016, Filed

No. 14-17303

Opinion

 [*644]  MEMORANDUM3

Plaintiff Torres Consulting and Law Group ("Torres") appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to NASA on Torres's Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") claim. Invoking FOIA Exemptions 4 and 6, NASA totally withheld the requested contractor's payroll records, and the district court affirmed. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). ] We review de novo summary judgment decisions in FOIA cases. Animal Legal Def. Fund v. U.S. Food & Drug Admin., 836 F.3d 987, 2016 WL 4578362 (9th Cir. 2016) [hereinafter ALDF] (en banc) (per curiam). We reverse and remand.

Section (a) of FOIA [**2]  generally obligates the government to disclose information to the public; section (b) contains nine exemptions to this general disclosure obligation. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)-(b); Frazee v. U.S. Forest Serv., 97 F.3d 367, 370 (9th Cir. 1996), abrogated on other grounds by ALDF, 836 F.3d 987, 2016 WL 4578362. Exemption 4 applies to matters that are "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential." 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4). Information is confidential for the purposes of Exemption 4 if its disclosure is likely "to cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom the information was obtained." GC Micro Corp. v. Def. Logistics Agency, 33 F.3d 1109, 1112-13 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Nat'l Parks & Conservation Ass'n v. Morton, 498 F.2d 765, 770, 162 U.S. App. D.C. 223 (D.C. Cir. 1974)), abrogated on other grounds by ALDF, 836 F.3d 987, 2016 WL 4578362. Information will result in substantial competitive injury if it "'would allow competitors to estimate, and undercut, [the firm's] bids.'" Id. at 1115 (quoting Gulf & W. Indus., Inc. v. United States, 615 F.2d 527, 530, 199 U.S. App. D.C. 1 (D.C. Cir. 1979)).

The parties here dispute whether releasing the requested information would likely cause substantial competitive injury to RTD Construction, Inc. ("RTD"), and they submitted competing evidence on this question to the district court.

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666 Fed. Appx. 643 *; 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 20854 **; 2016 WL 6833402

TORRES CONSULTING AND LAW GROUP, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION, Defendant-Appellee.

Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. D.C. No. 2:14-cv-00801-MEA. Mark E. Aspey, Magistrate Judge, Presiding.

CORE TERMS

Exemption, disclosure, privacy interest, abrogated, grounds, public interest

Administrative Law, Enforcement, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, Governmental Information, Freedom of Information, Defenses & Exemptions From Public Disclosure, Methods of Disclosure, Defenses & Exemptions From Public Disclosure, Commercial Information & Trade Secrets, Trials, Bench Trials, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Genuine Disputes, Materiality of Facts, Remands, Judicial Review, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Summary Judgment Review, Burdens of Proof, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Medical & Personnel Files