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NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE and 16 other new FOIA lawsuits

by Harry Hammitt on May 4th, 2017

We have added 104 documents from 16 FOIA cases filed between April 23, 2017 and April 29, 2017. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Apr 26, 2017)
    The National Security Archive submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records received by agency officials through the “Dissent Channel,” an informal means of communication established during the Vietnam War for agency employees to express their dissent concerning certain policies. The Archive noted that it had requested all records in 1997, but had been denied access under Exemption 5 (privileges). The new request indicated that the 2016 amendments prohibited agencies from claiming the deliberative process privilege for records more than 25 years old. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further, the National Security Archive filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  2. WELENC et al v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (filed Apr 26, 2017)
    Larry Welenc submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records from the FBI’s Las Vegas office on Nancy Shuster. The agency disclosed 214 of 279 records. Welenc argued that many of the records were about himself, rather than Shuster. He then filed suit, asking the court to consolidate the case with an earlier Privacy Act action he had filed in 2008.
    Issues: Litigation – Jurisdiction – Failure to State a Claim
  3. PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY (filed Apr 27, 2017)
    The Protect Democracy Project submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Energy for records concerning communications between the agency and the Presidential Transition Team, and/or the Trump White House, pertaining to climate change. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and in response to a query from the organization indicated that a search had been initiated. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Protect Democracy Project filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  4. THE PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES (filed Apr 27, 2017)
    The Protect Democracy Project submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Health and Human Services for records concerning communications between the agency and the Presidential Transition and/or the Trump White House concerning the Affordable Care Act. The Protect Democracy Project also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. As the result of a query about the request’s status, the organization was told that the agency had not yet assigned the request for search purposes. The Protect Democracy Project then filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  5. VOIGT v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (filed Apr 28, 2017)
    Kate Voigt submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Education for records concerning organizations that had either qualified or not qualified to participate in the Public Interest Loan Forgiveness program and other related records. The agency acknowledged receipt of her request and told Voigt that it was being referred to a number of offices for response. The office for Federal Student Aid told Voigt that it had located 200 pages of responsive documents, but was withholding 198 pages under Exemption 5 (privileges). Voigt filed an administrative appeal of the withholding, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Voigt filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  6. THE PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES (filed Apr 28, 2017)
    The Protect Democracy Project submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Health and Human Services for records concerning communications between the agency and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pertaining to the decision to discontinue the healthcare.gov website or enrollment in healthcare coverage. The Protect Democracy Project also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. As a result of a query pertaining to the status of the request, the organization was told that it had not yet been assigned for search purposes. The Protect Democracy Project then filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  7. Makuhari Media LLC et al v. Federal Bureau Of Investigation (filed Apr 27, 2017)
    Makuhari Media, a production company making documentary films, and Ryan Rodenberg, an academic researcher, submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records concerning the agency’s 2007 investigation of NBA referee Tim Donaghy for interfering with basketball games to benefit a professional gambler. The agency denied the request because Makuhari Media and Rodenberg had not provided Privacy Act waivers for various identified individuals, including Donaghy. Makuhari Media and Rodenberg filed an administrative appeal, arguing that much of the information related to the investigation had already been made public and that there was a public interest in knowing about the investigation. The FBI acknowledged receipt of the appeal, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Makuhari Media and Rodenberg filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  8. Brooks v. United States Postal Inspection Service (filed Apr 28, 2017)
    Jason Brooks, a federal prisoner, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Postal Inspection Service for records concerning himself and how the agency persuaded an individual to consent to the agency’s recording of a telephone call. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Brooks filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  9. Rorrer v. Federal Bureau of Investigation (filed Apr 27, 2017)
    Patricia Rorrer, a state prisoner, submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records concerning DNA analysis conducted between 1994 and 1998 pertaining to the murders of Joann and Alex Katrinak, for which Rorrer had been convicted. The FBI told Rorrer that it had located 1,935 pages of potentially responsive records which could be disclosed on 4 CDS for $55. Rorrer agreed to pay, but by the time the agency had finished processing the records, all but 22 of them were withheld under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). Rorrer filed an administrative appeal, which was denied. She then filed suit.
    Issues: Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  10. Crockett v. Department of Veterans Affairs (filed Apr 28, 2017)
    James Crockett submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a copy of his claims file. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Crockett filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  11. WESTERN VALUES PROJECT v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR (filed Apr 25, 2017)
    Western Values Project submitted four FOIA requests to the Department of the Interior for records concerning former agency employee David Bernhardt. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests, but aside from an indication that one of the requests had been completed, Western Values Project heard nothing further from the agency. Western Values Project then filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  12. WILDEARTH GUARDIANS v. UNITED STATES OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION AND ENFORCEMENT (filed Apr 25, 2017)
    Wildlife Guardians submitted a FOIA request to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for records concerning the October 2016 approval of the Spring Creek mining plan issued to Cloud Peak Energy. The agency asked Wildlife Guardians if it could take more time because of staffing problems and Wildlife Guardians agreed to allow the agency to extend its deadline for responding. The agency provided a partial response containing 179 records. Wildlife Guardians appealed that decision. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Wildlife Guardians filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  13. Hill v. Executive Office for United States Attorneys et al (filed Apr 25, 2017)
    Brian Hill submitted two FOIA requests to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for records concerning the discovery packet for his case. The agency disclosed some records, but Hill was unsatisfied and ultimately filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 7 – Law enforcement records
  14. MIDDLE EAST FORUM v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (filed Apr 26, 2017)
    The Middle East Forum submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security for records concerning the criteria used by the agency to evaluate and award Countering Violent Extremism grants. The Middle East Forum requested a fee waiver and indicated that the program was located in the agency’s Office for Community Partnerships. The Middle East Forum heard nothing further. However, after contacting the FOIA office, the organization was told that the request had been received and referred to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Middle East Forum then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  15. v. Wu et al (filed Apr 26, 2017)
    Lulu Wu submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security for records concerning herself. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Wu filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  16. Mescalero Apache Tribe v. United States Department of the Interior (filed Apr 27, 2017)
    The Mescalero Apache Tribe submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Interior for two opinions written by the Associate Solicitor in 1996 and 1997 pertaining to the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. The agency denied the request under Exemption 5 (privileges). The Mescalero Apache Tribe filed an administrative appeal, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Mescalero Apache Tribe filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees

In addition, we have added 1 document from 1 case, with an earlier filing date, that has recently appeared on PACER.

From → FOIA, PACER

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