Number of Pages:9
Date Created:January 24, 2014
Date Uploaded to the Library:February 03, 2014
Autogenerated text from PDF
United States Court Appeals For the Eighth Circuit No. 12-3765 Argus Leader Media, doing business Argus Leader Plaintiff Appellant United States Department Agriculture Defendant Appellee Appeal from United States District Court for the District South Dakota Sioux Falls Submitted: October 23, 2013 Filed: January 28, 2014 Before RILEY, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges. RILEY, Chief Judge. Formerly known the Food Stamp Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP program) one Americas largest and fastest-growing welfare arrangements: between 2007 and 2011, spending more than doubled from about $30 billion $72 billion. Amid increasing public scrutiny this burgeoning program, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, newspaper called the Argus Leader (Argus) wondered how much money individual retailers received from taxpayers each year through the program. Invoking the federal law meant bring disclosure sunlight the government bureaucracy, Argus requested this spending information from the U.S. Department Agriculture (department USDA) under the Freedom Information Act (FOIA), U.S.C. 552. Cf. Louis Brandeis, Other Peoples Money (1914) (Sunlight said the best disinfectants.). With little explanation, the department refused disclosure. After internal administrative appeal proved fruitless, Argus brought FOIA suit the District South Dakota. The department moved for summary judgment, contending the information was exempt from disclosure under U.S.C. 552(b)(3)known FOIA Exemption 3and U.S.C. 2018(c). Looking legislative history and accepting the departments statutory interpretation, the district court found the spending information exempt from disclosure and granted the departments motion. Argus appeals. Concluding the statutory text plainly precludes the department from shielding the spending information under Exemption reverse. BACKGROUND The Food Stamp Act 1964, Pub. No. 88525, Stat. 703, launched the program with $75 million appropriation its first year, rising $200 million its third. See id. 16(a), Stat. 709. fiscal year 2012, the programs total cost exceeded $78 billion, with more than million peopleover fifteen percent the 1Congr. Budget Office, The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (2012), available http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/ cbofiles/attachments/0419-SNAP.pdf. U.S. populationreceiving benefits.2 Most benefits needy families: percent SNAP households include a child, elderly person, disabled person and these households received percent all benefits. estimated $858 million per year trafficked, meaning SNAP recipients sell their benefits for cash discount food retailers, and approximately ten percent participating retailers engage trafficking.4 Administrative Proceedings February 2011, Argus sent letter the department requesting yearly redemption amounts, EBT sales figures, for each store participating the program between fiscal years 2005 and 2010. Beneficiaries receive electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which functions like debit card. use the card participating retailer, beneficiaries swipe their EBT card and enter four-digit personal identification number checkout. with any other debit card transaction, third-party processor deducts the transaction amount from the beneficiarys account and credits the retailers account. Such third-party processors handle and track [program] benefit accounts, then send transaction data the department. Although the days when retailers had redeem physical food stamps have long passed, the department still refers this electronic process redemption. After receiving 2See Food Nutrition Service (FNS), SNAP Monthly Data (Nov. 2013), http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/34SNAPmonthly.htm; FNS, SNAP Annual Summary (Nov. 2013), http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/SNAPsummary.htm; see also Phil Izzo, Food-Stamp Use Rises; Some 15% Get Benefits, Wall St. J., Aug. 2013, http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2013/08/09/food-stamp-use-rises-some-15-of-u-sgets-benefits. 3FNS, USDA, Characteristics SNAP Households: Fiscal Year 2011, (2012), available http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/ 2011Characteristics.pdf. 4USDA, The Extent Trafficking the SNAP: 2009-2011, (2013), available http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/Trafficking2009.pdf. transaction data from the third-party processors, the department loads each retailers aggregated data into government database. The department appears concede that could use this database supply the information requested Argus. The department simply refuses so. undated letter received February 17, 2011, the department revealed the names and addresses all participating retailers, but withheld all other information under U.S.C.  552(b)(3) and (b)(4). letter dated February 25, 2011, Argus appealed this withholding. The department denied the appeal another undated letter. Article III Proceedings August 26, 2011, Argus filed complaint under U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B) federal court seeking compel the department provide the withheld information. The department moved for summary judgment, invoking Exemption U.S.C. 552(b)(3). September 27, 2012, the district court granted the departments motion. First, the district court decided U.S.C. 2018 qualified withholding statute under Exemption Second, the district court found the retailer spending information was exempt from disclosure because was the type information that can obtained under the authority 2018though, practice, not obtained from the individual retailers. (Emphasis added). Consulting legislative history, the district court thought 1994 amendment 2018 demonstrate[d] that all types information that relate tax, income, redemption data that [sic] correlated with participation [the program] withheld all instances except internal administrative purposes for law enforcements use. The district court determined the department was entitled withhold the data. Argus appeals, invoking our jurisdiction under U.S.C. 1291. II. DISCUSSION perform novo review the grant summary judgment FOIA case. Mo. rel. Garstang U.S. Dept Interior, 297 F.3d 745, 749 (8th Cir. 2002). government agency not entitled summary judgment FOIA case unless the agency proves that has fully discharged its obligations under FOIA, after the underlying facts and the inferences drawn from them are construed the light most favorable the FOIA requester. Miller U.S. Dept State, 779 F.2d 1378, 1382 (8th Cir. 1985). In order discharge this burden, the agency must prove that each document that falls within the class requested either has been produced, unidentifiable, wholly exempt from the Acts inspection requirements. Id. 1382-83 (emphasis added) (quoting Natl Cable Television Assn, Inc. FCC, 479 F.2d 183, 186 (D.C. Cir. 1973)). Statutory Text Our analysis begins, always, with the statutory text. United States Gonzales, 520 U.S. (1997). The relevant text FOIA Exemption allows agencies withhold information that specifically exempted from disclosure statute (other than U.S.C. 552b]), that statute (A)(i) requires that the matters withheld from the public such manner leave discretion the issue; (ii) establishes particular criteria for withholding refers particular types matters withheld[. U.S.C. 552(b)(3) (emphasis added). The department contends the spending information specifically exempted U.S.C. 2018(c). Argus does not dispute 5There one additional requirement not applicable this case. that 2018(c) withholding statute (i.e., one that requires, establishes, refers non-discretionary particular withholding information). Instead, Argus challenges the district courts conclusion that programspending information falls within the withholding contemplated 2018(c). Again, look the relevant statutory text: (c) Information submitted applicants; safeguards; disclosure and use State agencies Regulations issued pursuant this chapter shall require applicant retail food store wholesale food concern submit information, which may include relevant income and sales tax filing documents, which will permit determination made whether such applicant qualifies, continues qualify, for approval Regulations issued pursuant this chapter shall provide for safeguards which limit the use disclosure information obtained under the authority granted this subsection Any person who publishes, divulges, discloses, makes known any manner any extent not authorized Federal law (including regulation) any information obtained under this subsection shall fined not more than $1,000 imprisoned not more than year, both. U.S.C. 2018(c) (emphasis added). Because the retailer spending information not submit[ted] an applicant retail food store wholesale food concern, id., the information not exempt from disclosure. The department, not any retailer, generates the information, and the underlying data obtained from third-party payment processors, not from individual retailers. See, e.g., Brian Garners Modern American Usage (3d ed. 2009) (defining obtain to get, acquire); Websters Third New Intl Dictionary 1559 (1993) (defining obtain to gain attain possession disposal of). Neither the forms used determine whether given retailer qualifies continues qualify program participant asks for the spending information. These plain textual reasons for rejecting the departments position mean need not rely the Supreme Courts admonition that FOIA exemptions must narrowly construed, Milner Dept Navy, 562 U.S. ___, ___, 131 Ct. 1259, 1262 (2011) (quoting FBI Abramson, 456 U.S. 615, 630 (1982)), conclude retailer spending information not obtained under the authority granted by 2018(c). Our plain reading further confirmed the subsection heading, which refers Information submitted applicants. U.S.C. 2018(c) (emphasis added). subsection heading cannot substitute for the operative text the statute. Fla. Dept Revenue Piccadilly Cafeterias, Inc., 554 U.S. 33, (2008). But statutory titles and section headings are tools available for the resolution doubt about the meaning statute. Id. (quoting Porter Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 528 (2002)). Even the statutory text left any ambiguity, the heading would resolve that doubt favor disclosure. The district courts contrary conclusion stemmed from misreading the statute. First, the district court singled out the term any information, interpreting the statute require withholding all informationregardless its sourceused determine whether a retailer qualifies continues qualify for participation the [program]. Yet the statute makes clear that only information obtained under 2018(c)submitted retaileris exempted. When the statute says obtained means obtained, not can obtained, the district court reasoned. (Emphasis added). Congress expresses its purpose words. for [courts] ascertainneither add nor subtract, neither delete nor distort. Cases, More Less, Each Containing Six Jars Jam United States, 340 U.S. 593, 596 (1951). Here, however else the spending information could obtained, the department actually obtained from third-party payment processors, not the retailers themselves. Second, the district court thought the spending information qualified relevant income and sales tax filing documents. The district court opined, Although Congress has not expressly deemed redemption information essential data included under 2018, the statutory language encompasses this type income and tax information because redemption data naturally falls under either terms broad umbrella. Again, the district court departed from the plain text the statute, which refers income and sales tax filing documents. U.S.C. 2018(c) (emphasis added). These wordsconfirmed the requirement provide written authorization for the Secretary verify all relevant tax filings with appropriate agenciesplainly refer tax documents filed with relevant state, local, and federal tax authorities. Id. (emphasis added). Echoing the Supreme Court, have stated time and again that courts must presume that legislature says statute what means and means statute what says there. When the words statute are unambiguous, then, this first canon also the last: judicial inquiry complete. Barnhart Sigmon Coal Co., 534 U.S. 438, 461-62 (2002) (internal quotation omitted); see, e.g., Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers Assn, Inc. Supervalu, Inc., 651 F.3d 857, 862 (8th Cir. 2011). The spending information not tax filing document, the district courts broad umbrella cannot shade the spending information from the sunlight. Statutory History Although the authoritative statement the statutory text, not the legislative history, Exxon Mobil Corp. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 568 (2005), recognize that the district court relied part the legislative history. While resolving this case purely textual grounds, observe for those who find legislative history useful, United States Tinklenberg, 563 U.S. ___, ___, 131 Ct. 2007, 2015 (2011), that this history more fairly read support Argus position. First, Congress has clearly indicated its intent involve the public counteracting fraud perpetrated retailers participating the program. See, e.g., Food Stamp and Commodity Distribution Amendments 1981, Pub. No. 9798, 1314, Stat. 1213, 1285 (codified amended U.S.C. 2018(e)). Second, the statutory history reveals that redemptions were historically governed not 2018(c), but entirely different section: U.S.C. 2019. See Food Stamp Act 1977, Pub. No. 95113, sec. 1301, 10, Stat. 913, 969 (codified amended U.S.C. 2019). Thus, Congress apparently never expected the department obtain redemption data, used generate the requested spending information, under the authority granted [ 2018(c)]. U.S.C. 2018(c). Noting the history 2018(c) but relying its plain text, conclude Exemption cannot prevent Argus from pierc[ing] the veil administrative secrecy and open[ing] [the departments] action[s] the light public scrutiny. Dept Air Force Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 361 (1976) (internal quotation omitted). III. CONCLUSION reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.