September 9, 2015

9th Circuit Declines to Decide DQA Reviewability

In deciding Harkonen v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit explicitly declined to opine on whether agency actions under the Data (Information) Quality Act are subject to judicial review. In reaching its decision, the court rebuffed DOJ which had asserted that the court did not have the authority to review DQA cases. Specifically, the Opinion stated,

The government argues the IQA does not authorize courts to review the correctness of information disseminated by an agency.

      We have no reason in this case to reach the broad question of whether the IQA confers upon a private individual the right to seek judicial review of the correctness of all information published by the government.

The clearest judicial statement on the reviewability of the DQA continues to be Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in Prime Time Int’l Co. v. Vilsack in which the court cited the section of the Supreme Court’s Mead decision stating, “We hold that administrative implementation of a particular statutory provision qualifies for Chevron deference when it appears that Congress delegated authority to the agency generally to make rules carrying the force of law, and that the agency interpretation claiming deference was promulgated in the exercise of that authority.” (Emphasis added)

The Harkonen Opinion, which cited Prime Time Int’l, also applied a Chevron analysis in deferring to OMB’s interpretation of the the DQA. Our conclusion is that agency decisions under the DQA are subject to judicial review. The Ninth Circuit demonstrated by the reviewability of agency actions under the DQA by reviewing the facts of the Harkonen case, applying a Chevron analysis, and deciding that OMB was within the scope of its discretion under the DQA by excluding press releases from the definition of “dissemination.”

See CRE’s Harkonen Amicus Curiae Brief

See the Ninth Circuit’s Harkonen Opinion

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