Forsham v. Harris

LOCATION: University of California Medical School at Davis

DOCKET NO.: 78-1118
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 445 US 169 (1980)
ARGUED: Oct 31, 1979
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1980

Kenneth Steven Geller - on behalf of the Respondent Harris
Michael R. Sonnenreich - on behalf of the Petitioners
Thomas E. Plank - on behalf of the Respondent Klimt

Facts of the case


Media for Forsham v. Harris

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 1979 in Forsham v. Harris

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 03, 1980 in Forsham v. Harris

William H. Rehnquist:

And the Forsham case is a Companion case to the Kissinger case arising out of a nationwide group of private physicians, 00:11 scientists specializing in the treatment of diabetes forming a group program to conduct a long term study of the effectiveness of different methods for treating diabetes.

Over the years, this study has received approximately $15 million in federal grant funding from the department of HEW.

It has generated more than $55 million records documenting the treatment of more than 1000 diabetic patients.

In the last decade, this group has published findings based on this data indicating that certain known methods for treating adult diabetes increase the patient's risk there from cardiovascular disease.

These findings have generated its substantial professional debate.

Another group of physicians involved in the treatment of diabetic patients calling themselves as The Committee and Care of the Diabetic known as the CCD have been among those critical of this first group's findings.

The CCD determined that it was necessary to gain access to the university group data in order to effectively scrutinize these studies findings.

Physicians who are members of CCD -- petitioners in this Court sought to obtain access to the data by filing an FOIA request with the department of HEW.

HEW denied the request for the data on the grounds that the only required disclosure of agency records was the records generated by the university group and that these were not agency records.

The CCD for Physicians then filed this FOIA suite in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking an order requiring HEW to make all of the raw data complied by the university group available to them.

The District Court and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld HEW's determination that the data sought were not discoverable under FIOA.

Today, we affirmed the judgement of the Court of Appeals and enacting the Freedom of Information Act.

Congress granted a public a right of access to agency records, the data which the petitioners requested have been apprehended solely by the efforts of a privately controlled organization which has it all times required possession -- retain possession of the data.

We hold that when federal agency has neither created nor obtained records generated by private organization, those records are not agency records and therefore, are not available pursuant to request under Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Marshall has joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Rehnquist.