A New York appellate court has ruled that the New York Times‘s request for a list of gun owners in New York City, under the Freedom of Information Law, violates the state’s statute. The ruling overturns in part a lower court’s ruling.
“Order and judgment (one paper), Supreme Court, New York County (Jane S. Solomon, J.), entered November 1, 2011, granting the petition to the extent it sought an order directing respondent, under the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law § 84 et seq.) (FOIL), to provide an electronic copy of a database, as redacted, of names and addresses of New York City residents who have been granted handgun licenses, and a database, to be redacted, of hate crimes reported to respondent from January 1, 2005 to the present, and denying the petition to the extent it sought an order directing respondent to provide an electronic copy of its crime incident database, a declaration that respondent’s practices in responding to FOIL requests violate the statute, and an order directing respondent to cease these practices, unanimously modified, on the law, to deny the petition as to the databases of handgun licensees and hate crimes and to reinstate the petition with respect to the demand for the crime incident database, insofar as it seeks production of the electronic crime incident database produced in Floyd v City of New York (08 Civ 01034 [SAS] [US Dist Ct, SD NY]) (the Floyd database), and the matter remitted to Supreme Court for a determination of whether production of the Floyd database should be ordered, and, if so, to what extent and under what conditions, and otherwise affirmed, without costs,” reads the ruling.
The appellate court rules that a lower court erred by ordering the release of “the home addresses of handgun licensees in electronic form.” “The court erred in ordering respondent to release the home addresses of handgun licensees in electronic form. The fact that Penal Law § 400.00(5) makes the name and address of a handgun license holder “a public record” is not dispositive of whether respondent can assert the privacy and safety exemptions to FOIL disclosure, especially when petitioners seek the names and addresses in electronic form (see Matter of New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v Kelly, 55 AD3d 222, 226 [1st Dept 2008]). In addition, “[d]isclosing a person’s home address implicates a heightened privacy concern” (Matter of New York State United Teachers v Brighter Choice Charter School, 64 AD3d 1130, 1132 [3d Dept 2009], citing, inter alia, Public Officers Law § 89, revd on other grounds 15 NY3d 560 ).”
The ruling adds, “However, the Floyd database was produced in an unrelated federal action, governed by very different standards from those that govern public access to records under FOIL (see Svaigsen v City of New York, 203 AD2d 32 [1st Dept 1994]). Further, the database was produced pursuant to strict confidentiality requirements, which indicates that disclosure to the [*4]general public would, at a minimum, raise serious confidentiality and privacy concerns. Accordingly, we remand to Supreme Court to determine whether the Floyd database should be released, and if so, under what conditions.”