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GOVERNMENT documents detailing an assistant U.S. attorney’s personal reflections on her misconduct and its effect on her life are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on May 20. Office of the Capital Collateral Counsel v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, No. 02-14274. During a trial involving the alleged Internet solicitation of a minor for an unlawful sexual encounter, the court dismissed the indictment after it was discovered that the prosecuting assistant U.S. attorney had concealed the true name of a witness in order to hide potential credibility problems. The deputy director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys suspended the prosecutor for two weeks without pay. Then, acting on an ethics complaint filed with the Florida Bar concerning the U.S. attorney, the Florida Supreme Court ultimately suspended the attorney for one year. The attorney resigned her position. In response to a request from the Office of Capital Collateral Counsel, the U.S. Department of Justice released all records concerning the attorney’s disciplinary proceedings, save five. The Florida federal court ordered that two of the documents, which reveal the attorney’s private thoughts and feelings about her misconduct and its effect on her family and career, be disclosed under the act. Reversing, the 11th Circuit ruled that the attorney’s personal reflections on her misconduct are not relevant to the public interest in knowing what the government is doing. Revealing such information would be an invasion not only of the attorney’s privacy but also that of third parties who are identified in the documents.

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