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Harkonen v. United States DOJ - No. C 12-629 CW, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171415 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 3, 2012)

Rule:

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, the United States Department of Justice's denial of petitions for correction "may be set aside only if it is 'arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.'" Save the Peaks Coal. v. United States Forest Serv., 669 F.3d 1025, 1035 (2012)

Facts:

Defendant United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") denied Plaintiff W. Scott Harkonen's multiple requests for correction of a press release that DOJ disseminated announcing Harkonen's criminal conviction for wire fraud. Harkonen sought review of these denials and brought facial and as-applied challenges to the information quality guidelines promulgated by DOJ and co-defendant United States Office of Management and Budget ("OMB"). Defendants moved to dismiss Harkonen’s complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6). Harkonen opposed that motion and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.

Issue:

Did the DOJ err in denying Harkonen's multiple requests for correction of a press release that DOJ disseminated announcing Harkonen's criminal conviction for wire fraud?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court held that the DOJ did not abandon its reliance on the accuracy of the press release when H. Marshall Jarrett, Director of the DOJ's Executive Office for United States Attorneys, denied Harkonen’s requests for reconsideration. In the responses to the requests for reconsideration, Jarrett did not explicitly repudiate the position that the challenged statements in the press release were accurate. Instead, he explained that the requests for reconsideration had not persuaded him to change the determination that the information was not covered by the guidelines and the guidelines did not require any substantive response to such requests, even though he had provided one. That he did not repeat the reasons that he determined that the press release was accurate did not mean that DOJ abandoned the reasoning. Accordingly, even if the agency guidelines encompassed press releases, Harkonen did not establish that the denial of his second request for correction was an abuse of discretion, arbitrary, capricious or contrary to the law.

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