Victory in the Ninth Circuit for FAC and for Government Transparency


The First Amendment Coalition today secured an important victory in its long-running fight with the U.S. Department of Justice to bring to public light legal memos analyzing the use of drone strikes to kill American citizens abroad.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit held that FAC is entitled to have the government pay FAC’s attorneys’ fees for its five-year legal battle with DOJ over the release of the so-called Drone Memos.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision is a vindication of FAC’s sustained efforts, against relentless opposition from the government, to bring the government’s formerly secret legal reasoning to light,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder.  “It also serves as a reminder that government agencies which improperly stonewall the public’s right of access will be forced to pay for that resistance.”

FAC sued the DOJ in 2012 over its failure to produce the Drone Memos.  The government ultimately produced two declassified version of the memos — one as a result of FAC’s lawsuit, and one as a result of a similar lawsuit filed by the New York Times and the ACLU.

In reversing the lower court’s conclusion that FAC was not entitled to attorneys’ fees, the Ninth Circuit noted FAC’s “dogged determination” that led to the release of one of two formerly secret memos by DOJ, and made clear that it was FAC’s litigation that “triggered the release of…key documents.”

FAC is represented in the Drone Memo litigation by Tom Burke of Davis Wright Tremaine.  Jonathan Segal of Davis Wright argued the case before the Ninth Circuit in December.

David Snyder, Executive Director, 415-460-5060

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