KATZMANN, Circuit Judge.
This case calls upon us to consider a conflict between two principles fundamental to our system of government: the public's right to know the policies by which it is governed, and the government's right to obtain frank and confidential counsel as those policies are formulated.
Plaintiffs-appellees, a coalition of advocacy organizations, brought this lawsuit pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, seeking disclosure of an unpublished Office of Legal Counsel memorandum (the "OLC Memorandum" or "Memorandum"). The OLC Memorandum, which was prepared for the Department of Justice in April 2002, analyzes the question of whether state and local law enforcement may lawfully enforce certain provisions of federal immigration law. The district court (Kaplan, J.) held that the Department was required to produce the OLC Memorandum because, while the Memorandum met the threshold requirements for nondisclosure under FOIA's deliberative process exemption, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5), the Department had waived that protection by adopting the Memorandum or incorporating it into official agency policy.
On appeal, the Department argues that it did not expressly adopt or incorporate the OLC Memorandum and that, accordingly, the Memorandum is shielded from disclosure under FOIA's deliberative process exemption. In the alternative, the Department argues that even if the deliberative process privilege does not protect the Memorandum, the Department is nonetheless entitled to withhold the Memorandum on the grounds of attorney-client privilege. We disagree on both counts and hold that: (1) the Department incorporated the OLC Memorandum into agency policy through its repeated reference to, and reliance on, the Memorandum; and (2) in this context, the attorney-client privilege does not shield the Memorandum from disclosure.
The instant dispute arose out of a change in policy instituted by the Department of Justice. Beginning in 1996, the Department took the position that state and local law enforcement lacked authority to enforce the civil, as opposed to criminal,
In 2002, however, the Department reversed course, taking the position that state and local law enforcement could, in fact, lawfully enforce the civil provisions of immigration law. The Department's change in policy was announced by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft at a June 5, 2002 press conference unveiling the "National Security Entry-Exit Registration System" ("NSEERS"). As the Attorney General explained, NSEERS is an initiative designed to "expand substantially America's scrutiny of those foreign visitors who may pose a national security concern and enter our country." In connection with this initiative, the Attorney General announced that information concerning aliens who overstay their visas or attempt to evade registration requirements — civil immigration violations — will be entered into the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") database, a system that state and local police officers regularly check during traffic stops and other routine encounters. The Attorney General explained that state and local law enforcement could then voluntarily arrest those individuals on the basis of their immigration violations and transfer them to the custody of federal immigration officials.
In support of this policy, and during that June 5, 2002 press conference, the Attorney General made the first of a number of references to the OLC Memorandum that the plaintiffs here seek disclosed. Specifically, the Attorney General explained:
In a similar vein, in response to a letter from one of the plaintiff organizations inquiring as to the authority of states and localities to enforce the civil provisions of immigration law, the Attorney General, by letter dated March 11, 2003, wrote:
(emphases added). Similar language appears in at least three other letters, one written by the Attorney General, the other two written by the Acting Assistant Attorney General and submitted to members of Congress.
In June 2003, Kris Kobach, counsel to the Attorney General, gave what is perhaps the most detailed discussion of the OLC Memorandum during a presentation before the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Policy Advisory Board — a presentation attended by, inter alia, representatives from state and local police departments. Kobach began by stating that he would "sort of summarize" the Memorandum and then explained:
Later in his remarks, Kobach continued:
Plaintiffs subsequently filed the instant lawsuit seeking, inter alia, to compel the production of documents relating to the Department's new position regarding the authority of states and localities to enforce civil violations of immigration law, only one of which — the 2002 OLC Memorandum — is relevant on appeal. On the Department's motion for summary judgment, the district court held, in relevant part, that the Department was required to disclose the OLC Memorandum. The district court noted that while the Memorandum fell within the deliberative process exception to FOIA's disclosure requirements and would normally not be subject to disclosure, the Department was nonetheless required to produce the Memorandum because the Department had, through the public statements of its representatives, incorporated the OLC Memorandum into Department policy. See Nat'l Council of La Raza v. Dep't of Justice, 339 F.Supp.2d 572, 585-87 (S.D.N.Y.2004).
The Department sought reconsideration of the district court's decision and urged the district court to review the OLC Memorandum in camera. On October 14, 2004, the district court granted the Department's motion in part, reaffirming its previous order that the bulk of the Memorandum be disclosed, but ordering the redaction of several sections of the OLC Memorandum that were unrelated to the Department's policy. See Nat'l Council of La Raza v. Dep't of Justice, No. 03 Civ. 2559, 2004 WL 2314455 at *1-2, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20529, at *5-6 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 14, 2004). This expedited appeal followed.
We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment in a FOIA case. See Halpern v. FBI, 181 F.3d 279, 288 (2d Cir.1999). We also review de novo a district court's decision "to require partial production of documents following in camera review, in keeping with the spirit and the text of the FOIA and its presumption in favor of disclosure." Tigue v. United States Dep't of Justice, 312 F.3d 70, 75 (2d Cir.2002) (citation omitted).
FOIA was enacted in order to "promote honest and open government and to assure the existence of an informed citizenry [in order] to hold the governors accountable to the governed." Grand Cent. P'ship, Inc. v. Cuomo, 166 F.3d 473, 478 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). FOIA strongly favors a policy of disclosure, see, e.g., Halpern, 181 F.3d at 286, and requires the government to disclose its records unless its documents fall within one of the specific, enumerated exemptions set forth in the Act. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3), (b)(1)-(9); Tigue, 312 F.3d at 76. Consistent with FOIA's purposes,
At issue in the present appeal is whether the OLC Memorandum is protected under FOIA's fifth exemption ("Exemption 5"), which permits an agency to withhold "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency." 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5). Courts have interpreted Exemption 5 to encompass traditional common-law privileges against disclosure, including the work-product doctrine, and executive, deliberative process and attorney-client privileges. See, e.g., Grand Cent. P'ship, Inc., 166 F.3d at 481. The Department principally argues that the OLC Memorandum is protected by the "deliberative process privilege, a sub-species of work-product privilege that covers documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated." Tigue, 312 F.3d at 76 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
The deliberative process privilege is designed to promote the quality of agency decisions by preserving and encouraging candid discussion between officials. It is based on "the obvious realization that officials will not communicate candidly among themselves if each remark is a potential item of discovery and front page news." Klamath, 532 U.S. at 8-9, 121 S.Ct. 1060. An inter — or intra-agency document may be withheld pursuant to the deliberative process privilege if it is: (1) "predecisional," i.e., "prepared in order to assist an agency decisionmaker in arriving at his decision," and (2) "deliberative," i.e., "actually ... related to the process by which policies are formulated." Cuomo, 166 F.3d at 482 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). See also Tigue, 312 F.3d at 76; Local 3, Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 845 F.2d at 1180.
Just because a document satisfies these requirements, however, does not mean that the deliberative process privilege bars its disclosure. An agency may be required to disclose a document otherwise entitled to protection under the deliberative process privilege if the agency has chosen "expressly to adopt or incorporate by reference [a]... memorandum previously covered by Exemption 5 in what would otherwise be a final opinion." NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 161, 95 S.Ct. 1504, 44 L.Ed.2d 29 (1975). In such a circumstance, the document loses its predecisional and deliberative character, and accordingly, the deliberative process privilege no longer applies. See Coastal States Gas Corp. v. Dep't of Energy, 617 F.2d 854, 866 (D.C.Cir.1980) ("[E]ven if the document is predecisional at the time it is prepared, it can lose that status
Sears, 421 U.S. at 161, 95 S.Ct. 1504.
In the instant case, the repeated references to the OLC Memorandum made by the Attorney General and his high-ranking advisors,
The foregoing statements make clear that the Attorney General and his high-level staff made a practice of using the OLC Memorandum to justify and explain the Department's policy and to assure the public and the very state and local government officials who would be asked to implement the new policy that the policy was legally sound. Moreover, these statements must be understood in context: The Department had announced a reversal of its policy, and the Department publicly and repeatedly depended on the Memorandum as the primary legal authority justifying and driving this change, and the legal basis therefor. Thus, given the facts and context, the Department cannot satisfy its burden of proving that the deliberative process exemption to FOIA applies to the document here sought. See Taxation With Representation Fund, 646 F.2d at 678 (noting that deliberative process privilege may evaporate if a document "is used by the agency in its dealings with the public" (quoting Coastal States Gas, 617 F.2d at 866)); Montrose Chem. Corp. v. Train, 491 F.2d 63, 70 (D.C.Cir.1974) (explaining that disclosure is required "where a decision-maker has referred to an intra-agency memorandum as a basis for his decision," since "once adopted as a rationale for a decision, the memorandum becomes part of the public record"). See also Arthur Andersen & Co., 679 F.2d at 258.
To be sure, had the Department simply adopted only the conclusions of the OLC Memorandum, the district court could not have required that the Memorandum be disclosed. Mere reliance on a document's conclusions does not necessarily involve reliance on a document's analysis; both will ordinarily be needed before a court may properly find adoption or incorporation by reference. In Renegotiation Bd. v. Grumman Aircraft Eng'g Corp., 421 U.S. 168, 168, 95 S.Ct. 1491, 44 L.Ed.2d 57 (1975), for example, plaintiffs sought reports prepared by two subordinate divisions
Certainly, in situations like Grumman, where an agency, having reviewed a subordinate's non-binding recommendation, makes a "yes or no" determination without providing any reasoning at all, a court may not infer that the agency is relying on the reasoning contained in the subordinate's report. See Casad v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 301 F.3d 1247, 1252-53 (10th Cir.2002) (holding that a report relied upon by agency in determining whether or not to award a grant had not been adopted, as "[t]here is no indication in the record that, in funding the ... grant, the [agency] expressly adopted the reasoning" of the report); Afshar v. Dep't of State, 702 F.2d 1125, 1143 n. 22 (D.C.Cir.1983) (noting that "[i]f the agency merely carried out the recommended decision without explaining its decision in writing, we could not be sure that the memoranda accurately reflected the decisionmaker's thinking"). Courts have similarly honored the deliberative process privilege where an agency has only casually referred to a document, because a casual reference to a privileged document does not necessarily imply that an agency agrees with the reasoning contained in those documents. See Tigue, 312 F.3d at 81 (holding that two minor references to a document protected by the deliberative process privilege were insufficient to establish adoption or incorporation); Access Reports v. Dep't of Justice, 926 F.2d 1192, 1197 (D.C.Cir.1991) (one "confused statement" that might have been a reference to the document at issue "fell far short of the express adoption required by Sears"). See also Common Cause v. IRS, 646 F.2d 656, 660 (D.C.Cir.1981). Rather, there must be evidence that an agency has actually adopted or incorporated by reference the document at issue; mere speculation will not suffice.
The instant case, however, is different. The record makes clear that the Department embraced the OLC's reasoning as its own. The OLC Memorandum was "used by the agency in its dealings with the public," Coastal States Gas, 617 F.2d at 866, as the sole legal authority for the Department's claim that its new policy had a basis in the law; indeed, the Department repeatedly invoked the OLC Memorandum to assure those outside of the agency that its policy was lawful and to encourage states and localities to take actions that the Department desired. See supra. The Department therefore relied on the OLC Memorandum not only to justify what it, the Department, would do as a result of its deliberations, but also to justify what a third party — "state and local law enforcement" — should and could lawfully do. The latter use of the OLC Memorandum by Department personnel is powerful evidence that the Department explicitly adopted the OLC Memorandum as part of
Sears, 421 U.S. at 152-53, 95 S.Ct. 1504. Here, as the district court cogently concluded, "The Department's view that it may adopt a legal position while shielding from public view the analysis that yielded that position is offensive to FOIA." La Raza, 339 F.Supp.2d at 587.
Finally, the Department argues that even if the OLC Memorandum is not entitled to protection under the deliberative process privilege, it may nonetheless withhold the Memorandum on the grounds that the Memorandum is independently protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege, also an exception to FOIA's disclosure requirements. See In re Grand Jury Investigation, 399 F.3d 527, 533 (2d Cir.2005) (noting that "[c]ourts have construed Exemption 5 as covering materials protected by the attorney-client privilege"). We disagree. Like the deliberative process privilege, the attorney-client privilege may not be invoked to protect a document adopted as, or incorporated by reference into, an agency's policy. In such circumstances, the principal rationale behind the attorney-client privilege — "to promote open communication between attorneys and their clients so that fully informed legal advice may be given," In re John Doe, Inc., 13 F.3d 633, 635-36 (2d Cir.1994) — like the principal rationale behind the deliberative process privilege, evaporates; for once an agency adopts or incorporates document, frank communication will not be inhibited. Indeed, once an attorney's (or employee's) recommendation becomes agency law, the agency is then responsible for defending that policy, and the attorney (or employee) "will generally be encouraged rather than discouraged" by public knowledge that their policy suggestions or legal analysis have been adopted by the agency. See Sears, 421 U.S. at 161, 95 S.Ct. 1504. Disclosure is therefore appropriate in such circumstances. See Falcone v. IRS, 479 F.Supp. 985, 990 (E.D.Mich.1979) (stating that adopted documents are not protected by the attorney-client privilege, and noting that "broad attorney-client privilege would permit legal opinions, recognized as authoritative interpretations within the agency, to be hidden from the public. Further, it is clear that the purpose of the privilege
We cannot allow the Department to make public use of the Memorandum when it serves the Department's ends but claim the attorney-client privilege when it does not. Because the Department, in light of all the facts and circumstances set forth above, incorporated the OLC Memorandum into the Department's policy, the attorney-client privilege cannot here be invoked to bar that Memorandum's disclosure.
For the foregoing reasons, the order of the district court is affirmed.