Michael J. FLAHERTY, Jr., Eugene P. Adams, Joseph A. Agro, Mark D. Arcara,Randy G. Attea, James F. Bargnesi, Christopher J. Belling, Diana M. Boccio,Timothy P. Bridge, Catherine A. Carey, Kenneth F. Case, Melissa M. Chiasera,Peter J. Cosgrove, Peter J. Crotty, Don Dally, John DeFranks, Jorge S.DeRosas,John C. Doscher, G. Michael Drmacich, Daniel DuBois, Susan Etu Eagan, RobertC.Figliola, Thomas M. Fininerty, John J. Flynn, Thomas E. Fowler, Jr., LaurieA.Frank, Anthony L. Fumerelle, Colleen Curtin Gable, Lauren Gauthier, Mario A.Giacobbe, Paul J. Glascott, Amy J. Goldstein, Karen Greenspan, Gary W.Hackbush, Jeffrey J. Hagen, Marcy H. Hagen, Louis A. Haremski, Raymond C.Herman, Jr., Frank T. Housh, Thomas P. Hurley, Wendy R. Irene, Rosanne E.Johnson, Cydney A. Kelly, David S. Kelly, Joseph L. Kilbridge, Daniel M.Killelea, Brian M. Klebba, Thomas D. Kubiniec, J. Patrick Lennon, Sharon M.LoVallo, Jason C. Luna, J. Michael Marion, Latonia D. Gaston Marsh, JosephJ.Marusak, Michael I. McCabe, Michael J. McHale, Brian P. McNamara, StevenMeyer,Donna A. Milling Marion Miskovski, Joseph M. Mordino, Molly J. Musarra,JosephA. Muscato, Diane T. O'Gorman, Diane L. Oak, Judith G. Olin, Kelley A. Omel,Brian K. Parker, Glenn Pincus, Paul S. Piotrowski, Frederick J. Platek, Jr.,Brandon A. Portis, Lynette M. Reda, Emilia Rodriguez, Lisa M. Rodwin, WalterL.Rooth III, Mark A. Sacha, Robert A. Scharlock, Paul E. Scharmach, John G.Schoemick, Denise M. Schunke, Lawrence M. Schwegler, Frank J. Sedita, DanielR.Slade, Tina M. Stanford, Douglas P. Stiller, Letizia P. Tagliafierro, BettyCalvo Torres, Thomas D. Trbovich, Holly P. Tucker, Yvonne Vertlieb, Louis P.Violanti, Candace K. Vogel, Pauline C. Will, Paul J. Williams III, Lisa M.Yaeger and Barry A. Zavah, Plaintiffs,v.Joel A. GIAMBRA, Erie County Executive, County Legislature of Erie County,Leonard R. Lenihan, Erie County Personnel Commissioner, and County of Erie,Defendants.No. 02-CV-0243E(SR).Jan. 27, 2004.Ellen Dichner, Gladstein, Reif & Meginniss, LLP, New York, NY, forPlaintiffs.Steven B. Sheinwald, Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, P.C., Garden City, NY, forDefendant.
MEMORANDUM and ORDER [FN1]
FN1. This decision may be cited in whole or in any part.
ELFVIN, J.*1 This Court has been asked to resolve a discovery dispute between theparties. Defendants refused to produce certain documents on the basis of thedeliberative process privilege ("the DPP"). [FN2] Plaintiffs objected for avariety of reasons, including the purported inapplicability of the DPP. Forthe foregoing reasons, defendants shall be required to produce documents 1-2and 4- 7 and page EC0015 of document 3.
FN2. See, e.g., DiPace v. Goord, 218 F.R.D. 399, 403 (S.D.N.Y.2003)(discussing the DPP).
In order to invoke the DPP, "the document asserted to be privileged must beboth 'predecisional' and 'deliberative." ' [FN3] The DPP "applies to bothintra-agency and interagency communications" [FN4] and has been applied tomunicipal entities. [FN5]
FN3. Nat'l Congress for Puerto Rican Rights v. City of New York, 194 F.R.D.88, 92 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (citing Hopkins v. U.S. Dep't ofHousing & Urban Dev., 929 F.2d 81, 84 (2d Cir.1991)); see also Tigue v. U.S.Dep't of Justice, 312 F.3d 70, 76 (2d Cir.2002) ("In order for a document tobe protected by [the DPP], it must be: (1) an inter-agency or intra-agencydocument; (2) 'predecisional'; and (3) deliberative."). Although manydecisions addressing the DPP, including Hopkins, involved the Freedom ofInformation Act ("FOIA"), they nonetheless inform the DPP analysis in thenon-FOIA context. See Azon v. Long Isl. R.R., 2001 WL 1658219, at *1(S.D.N.Y.2001) (citing Hopkins and other FOIA caselaw in the non-FOIAcontext).
FN4. DiPace, supra note 2, at 403.
FN5. Cipolla v. Cty. of Rensselaer, 2001 WL 1223489, at *2 (N.D.N.Y.2001).
In order to be "predecisional," a document must have been "prepared in orderto assist an agency decisionmaker in arriving at her decision." [FN6]Accordingly, the DPP "protects recommendations, draft documents, proposals,suggestions, and other subjective documents which reflect the personalopinions of the writer rather than the policy of the agency." [FN7] Indeed,"information is 'predecisional' if it precedes, in temporal sequence, thedecision to which it relates * * * rather than a postdecisional memorand[um]setting forth the reason for an agency decision already made." [FN8]Moreover, the DPP "does not protect a document which is merely peripheral toactual policy formation; the record must bear on the formulation or exerciseof policy-oriented judgment." [FN9]
FN6. Nat'l Congress, supra note 3, at 92 (quoting Hopkins, supra, note 3)(internal quotations omitted).
FN7. Nat'l Congress, supra note 3, at 92 (quoting Grand Cent. P'shp, Inc. v.Cuomo, 166 F.3d 473, 482 (2d Cir.1999)).
FN8. LNC Invs., Inc. v. Republic of Nicar., 1997 WL 729106, at *1(S.D.N.Y.1997) (citations and internal quotations omitted).
FN9. Grand Cent. P'shp, supra note 7, at 482 (internal quotations andcitation omitted); see also Resolution Trust Corp. v. Diamond, 137 F.R.D.634, 641 (S.D.N.Y.1991) (holding that the DPP does not cover "materialsrelated to the explanation, interpretation or application of an existingpolicy, as opposed to the formulation of a new policy").
A document is deliberative when it is "actually * * * related to the processby which policies are formulated." [FN10] Accordingly, the DPP "focus[es] ondocuments reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberationscomprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policiesare formulated." [FN11] Conversely, the DPP "does not, as a general matter,extend to purely factual material." [FN12] In other words, the DPP does not"protect factual findings and conclusions, as opposed to opinions andrecommendations." [FN13] Consequently, "[w]henever possible, facts that areseparable from the privileged portion of a document should be disclosed."[FN14]
FN10. Hopkins, supra note 3, at 84.
FN11. Hopkins, supra note 3, at 84-85 (internal quotations and citationomitted).
FN12. Hopkins, supra note 3, at 85.
FN13. Resolution Trust, supra note 9, at 641 ("The exercise of judgment inthe formulation of a factual statement is not sufficient to lift it to thelevel of deliberation. The privilege also does not extend tomaterials related to the explanation, interpretation or application of anexisting policy, as opposed to the formulation of a new policy.") (citationomitted); see also Rao v. New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 1993 WL307860, at *1 (S.D.N.Y.1993) (noting that the DPP "does not extend toworking law communications, i.e., explanations of an existing decision,purely factual matters or factual data which can be severed from adeliberative memorandum or report") (internal quotations and citationomitted).
FN14. LNC Invs., supra note 8, at *2 (citing Hopkins, supra note 3, at 85).
Several courts have set forth procedural requirements required for theinvocation of the DPP. [FN15] First, a claim of the DPP "must be asserted bythe head of the governmental agency which has control over the informationto be protected, after personal review of the documents in question" or "thehead of the agency may designate a subordinate in high authority who iscompetent to assess the confidential nature of the agency's documents."[FN16] Second, "the information or documents sought to be shielded must beidentified and described." [FN17] Third, "the agency must provide 'preciseand certain' reasons for asserting confidentiality over the requestedinformation." [FN18] Nonetheless, the DPP is a qualified privilege that maybe overcome. [FN19] "Once a government agency establishes that the documentat issue is privileged information, courts must strike a balance between thepublic interest in disclosing the documents and the government's interest inprotecting them." [FN20]
FN15. See, e.g., Rao, supra note 13, at *1-2 (applying the DPP proceduralrequirements to state entities); Mary Imogene Bassett Hosp. v. Sullivan, 136F.R.D. 42, 44 (N.D.N.Y.1991) (requiring federal agency to satisfy the DPPprocedural requirements in a non-FOIA context).
FN16. LNC Invs., supra note 8, at *2.
FN17. LNC Invs., supra note 8, at *2.
FN18. LNC Invs., supra note 8, at *2.
FN19. Herman v. The Crescent Publ'g Group, 2000 WL 1371311, at *3(S.D.N.Y.2000).
FN20. LNC Invs., supra note 8, at *2 (noting that courts mayconsider factors including (1) the interest of the private litigant; (2) theneed for accurate judicial fact-finding; (3) the relevance of the evidencesought; (4) the availability of other evidence; and (5) the role of thegovernment in the litigation and issues involved).
*2 "Underlying the [DPP] is the rationale that 'those who expect publicdissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with a concern forappearances and for their own interests to the detriment of thedecisionmaking process." ' [FN21] In other words, the DPP "rests on theobvious realization that officials will not communicate candidly amongthemselves if each remark is a potential item of discovery and front pagenews, and its object is to enhance the quality of agency decisions." [FN22]
FN21. Grand Cent. P'shp, supra note 7, at 481 (quoting U.S. v. Nixon, 418U.S. 683, 705, 94 S.Ct. 3090, 41 L.Ed.2d 1039 (1974)); see also Manzi v.DiCarlo, 982 F.Supp. 125, 130 (E.D.N.Y.1997) (noting that the DPP isdesigned "to protect the decision making processes of the executive branchby shielding the intra-agency memoranda reflecting recommendations anddeliberations about governmental policies.").
FN22. Dep't of the Interior v. Klamath Water Users ProtectiveAss'n, 532 U.S. 1, 8-9, 121 S.Ct. 1060, 149 L.Ed.2d 87 (2001) (internalquotations and citation omitted).
Assuming arguendo that defendants have satisfied the proceduralrequirements, if any, required for application of the DPP, [FN23] this Courtmakes the following findings with respect to documents 1 through 7 listed inthe defendants' privilege log in light of the principles discussed above.First, defendants will be required to produce documents 1 (EC0001-EC00012)and 2 (EC0013-EC0014) because these documents are not "deliberative."Indeed, documents 1 and 2 contain purely factual information.
FN23. It is not clear that the procedural requirements from FOIA exemption 5cases are applicable in the non-FOIA context - as opposed to the substantiveprinciples of the DPP analysis. See note 3 supra.
Second, document 3 (EC0015-EC0016) is covered by the DPP. Nonetheless, itshould be redacted and produced inasmuch as it contains facts that areseparable from the privileged material. Accordingly, defendants shallproduce EC0015 [FN24] but may continue to withhold EC0016. [FN25]
FN24. EC0015 contains budget forecasts, i.e., factual data. Cf.Manzi, supra note 21, at 131 ("These documents contain primarily factualinformation regarding Senator DiCarlo's proposed budget or contemplatedexpenditures and are thus outside the deliberative process privilege.")(emphasis added).
FN25. Inasmuch as EC0016 appears irrelevant to this action, plaintiffs'interest in disclosure is outweighed by the defendants' interest inpreserving privilege.
Third, defendants will be required to produce documents 4 (EC0017- EC0025),5 (EC0026-EC0146), 6 (EC0147-EC0182) and 7 (EC0183- EC0195) because they areneither "predecisional" nor "deliberative." Document number 4 was generatedafter the 2002 budget had been passed and it contains factual information;it is not the type of draft document or proposal covered by the DPP. [FN26]Documents 5 [FN27] and 6 were generated after the 2002 budget was adopted.Moreover, it is irrelevant that documents 4-7 were "used by high levelcounty personnel" because the DPP does not insulate any and all facts ordocuments relied on in making a decision. Documents 4-7 contain purelyfactual data rather than opinions or recommendations protected by the DPP.[FN28]
FN26. The fact that document 4 was a formal report to the County Legislatureand the County Executive demonstrates that this document is not a draft orthe type of proposal covered by the DPP. This Court is aware of no decisionextending the DPP to protect communications sent to multiple branches ofgovernment - as opposed to inter-agency communications. The same holds truewith respect to document 7, a report to the County Executive from formerState Comptroller H. Carl McCall.
FN27. Document 5 was previously published, further undermining defendant'sclaim of privilege. See, e.g.,www.erie.gov/depts/government/comptroller/press072402.phtml.
FN28. See Manzi, supra note 21, at 131.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that defendants shall produce documents1-2 and 4-7 and page EC0015 of document 3 within five business days afterreceiving this decision. [FN29]
FN29. In other words, of the 195 pages of documents withheld by thedefendants, only page EC0016 may be withheld pursuant to the DPP.
W.D.N.Y.,2004.Flaherty v. Giambra2004 WL 816906 (W.D.N.Y.)
Avrohom Gefen, Esq.KIRSCHENBAUM & KIRSCHENBAUM, P.C.200 Garden City PlazaGarden City, New York 11530(516) 747-6700 ext. 215email me at AGefen@KirschenbaumEsq.com