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Release of Personal Information Called ‘Unlawful’ and a ‘Threat to Privacy’ in Eighth Circuit Appeals Brief

After a federal district court dismissed a case filed against the EPA, thereby upholding the validity of the EPA's public release of personal information about farmers and their families, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), along with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, calling the release unlawful and asking the Court of Appeals to reverse the district court's decision.

The court case came about after the EPA released a database containing personal information about tens of thousands of livestock and poultry farmers, ranchers, and their families in 2013. The released information included the names, home addresses, GPS coordinates of both homes and farms, home telephone numbers, and personal email addresses of these farmers, ranchers, and some of their family members.

The brief argues that the district court's ruling failed to address key privacy issues because this disclosure of personally identifying information creates a palpable threat to privacy. The brief also emphasizes that farms and ranches are different from typical businesses because the information about these businesses also contains information about the residences of farming and ranching families.

This article was written by Erin Buerger, a summer associate at Varnum in 2015. Erin is currently a student at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 168


About this Author

Aaron M. Phelps, Varnum, litigation attorney

For over 15 years, Aaron's practice has been focused on complex commercial and environmental litigation - in Michigan and around the country. Aaron has represented clients in contract and corporate governance disputes, telecommunications and energy matters, health care litigation, and tort actions.

Over the last five years, Aaron has represented over 200 companies in lawsuits against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for ERISA violations. The first trial resulted in a $6 million judgment, and subsequent judgments ranged from $315,000 to over $8 million. Currently...