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AMERICAN OVERSIGHT v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE and 22 other new FOIA lawsuits

by Harry Hammitt on May 18th, 2017

We have added 122 documents from 19 FOIA cases filed between May 7, 2017 and May 13, 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. AMERICAN OVERSIGHT v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed May 9, 2017)
    American Oversight submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for records concerning why Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who appeared before the Ninth Circuit Jan. 27 to defend President Trump’s travel ban, did not sign the government’s brief. Prior to becoming Acting Solicitor General, Francisco had been a partner at the law firm of Jones Day, which submitted an amicus brief before the Ninth Circuit on behalf of a business client whose interests were adverse to those of the government. Although Francisco did not sign the government’s brief there has been no indication that he recused himself from the case. American Oversight also requested expedited processing. The agency denied the request for expedited processing, but told American Oversight that it would not be able to respond within 20 days. American Oversight then filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Expedited processing, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  2. Witthoft v. Shulkin et al (filed May 9, 2017)
    Jesse Witthoft submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Veterans Affairs for his claims file. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Witthoft filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  3. CASE NUMBER NOT USED (filed May 10, 2017)
    Lulu Wu submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for records concerning herself. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Wu filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  4. Dominguez v. Federal Bureau of Investigation et al (filed May 8, 2017)
    Elijah Dominguez requested information from the FBI. He apparently was dissatisfied with the agency’s response and filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  5. PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE et al (filed May 8, 2017)
    The Project Democracy Project submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State for records concerning the legal authority for the missile attack on Syria. The Project also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. The agencies acknowledged receipt of the request. The State Department denied the Project’s request for a fee waiver, but otherwise none of the agencies responded to the Project’s requests for expedited processing or a fee waiver. After hearing nothing further from any of the agencies, the Protect Democracy Project filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  6. WU v. UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES (filed May 8, 2017)
    Lulu Wu submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for records about herself. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Wu filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  7. Leigh et al v. Bureau of Land Management et al (filed May 8, 2017)
    Laura Leigh, the founder of Wild Horse Education, submitted two FOIA requests to the Bureau of Land Management. One request was for records concerning herself. The other request was for records concerning the Fish Creek Herd Management Area investigation. Leigh also requested a fee waiver. The agency responded to her request for records on the Fish Creek Management Area investigation by disclosing 110 pages with redactions. In response to her inquiries, the agency told her the redactions had been made under Exemption 5 (privileges), Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy), and Exemption 7 (law enforcement records) and that it was not worth appealing because she would get no more information. As to her request for records about herself, the agency told Leigh that the cost of processing her request would be $898. Leigh then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  8. Leigh et al v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management et al (filed May 8, 2017)
    Laura Leigh, the founder of Wild Horse Education, submitted two FOIA requests to the Bureau of Land Management. One request was for records concerning herself. The other request was for records concerning the Fish Creek Herd Management Area investigation. Leigh also requested a fee waiver. She also requested a fee waiver. The agency responded to her request for records on the Fish Creek Management Area investigation by disclosing 110 pages with redactions. In response to her inquiries, the agency told her the redactions had been made under Exemption 5(privileges), Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy), and Exemption 7 (law enforcement records) and that it was not worth appealing because she would get no more information. As to her request for records about herself, the agency told Leigh that the cost of processing her request would be $898. Leigh then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  9. American Civil Liberties Union et al v. Department of Defense et al (filed May 8, 2017)
    The ACLU submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Defense and other intelligence agencies for records concerning the Jan. 29 U.S. raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a U.S. Seal. The ACLU also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. The agencies acknowledged receipt of the request. Several denied the ACLU’s request for expedited processing. After hearing nothing substantive from any of the agencies, the ACLU filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  10. Sea Shepherd Legal v. Department of the Navy (filed May 8, 2017)
    Sea Shepherd Legal submitted a FOIA request to the Department of the Navy for records concerning an alleged plan to locate and capture the endangered Vaquita Porpoise in the Gulf of California using Navy-trained porpoises. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Sea Shepherd Legal filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  11. GRAND CANYON TRUST v. ZINKE et al (filed May 9, 2017)
    The Grand Canyon Trust submitted a FOIA request to the Department of the Interior for records concerning a 2016 Secretarial Order entitled Discretionary Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to Modernize the Federal Coal Program. The agency disclosed 222 pages and told the Trust that it had located 8,000 potentially responsive records that would be processed and disclosed on a rolling basis. However, the agency subsequently told the Trust that information submitted by two energy companies had been sent out for pre-disclosure notification and that its request was now in the complex queue. The Trust also submitted a FOIA request to the Bureau of Land Management for the records. BLM told the Trust that it would probably take a year to process its request. After several further inquiries were unsuccessful, the Grand Canyon Trust filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  12. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed May 9, 2017)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records concerning efforts to supply Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) or other members of Congress with information supporting the Obama administration’s finding that Russia had tried to influence the 2016 election. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  13. Long et al v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (filed May 9, 2017)
    Susan Long and David Burnham, co-founders of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, submitted FOIA requests to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for database records concerning Form I-247 requests sent to law enforcement agencies to notify ICE of the pending release of a detained immigrant. Although the agency had previously disclosed such data, in response to two requests, the agency withheld a number of data elements. TRAC filed administrative appeals for both denials, but the agency upheld the denial. TRAC then filed suit.
    Issues: Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  14. Pesticide Action Network of North America v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (filed May 10, 2017)
    The Pesticide Action Network of North America submitted two FOIA requests to the EPA for records concerning the pesticide chlorpyrifos. After several queries about the status of its requests, the EPA indicated that it did not know when it would be able to respond. PANNA then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  15. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE et al (filed May 10, 2017)
    Judicial Watch submitted FOIA requests to the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury for records concerning the transfer of $400 million in currency to Iran. Both agencies acknowledged receipt of the requests, but after hearing nothing further from the agencies, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  16. ANIMAL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (filed May 10, 2017)
    The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Health and Human Services for records concerning the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s 2015 Scientific Report. The agency disclosed 468 pages. The agency withheld 282 pages in full or in part under Exemption 5 (privileges) and Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy). ALDF filed an administrative appeal, but after the agency indicated it would not be able to respond for 6-8 months, ALDF filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  17. aaronson v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (filed May 10, 2017)
    Scott Aaronson submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security for records concerning arrests made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from the Detroit Field Office on Feb. 12, 2017 and Feb. 19, 2017. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Aaronson filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  18. Natural Resources Defense Council v. United States Environmental Protection Agency (filed May 11, 2017)
    The Natural Resources Defense Council submitted FOIA requests to the EPA for records concerning various issues involving EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s actions. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, NRDC filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  19. Gizmodo Media Group, LLC v. Department of Justice (filed May 12, 2017)
    Gizmodo Media Group submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for records concerning any Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications to conduct surveillance on Donald Trump, any of his associates, or any of his properties. Based on public statements made by Trump alleging such surveillance took place, Gizmodo Media claimed that the existence of any potential FISA warrants had been implicitly acknowledged. The agency issued a Glomar response, neither confirming nor denying the existence of records. Gizmodo Media filed an appeal with the Office of Information Policy, which upheld the agency’s Glomar response. Gizmodo Media then filed suit.
    Issues: Litigation – Attorney’s fees

In addition, we have added 9 documents from 4 cases, with earlier filing dates, that have recently appeared on PACER.

  1. Western Watersheds Project v. USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (filed May 5, 2017)
  2. Awkward (filed May 5, 2017)
  3. Palmer v. U.S. Department of State (filed May 3, 2017)
  4. Charles v. United States Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons (filed May 2, 2017)

From → FOIA, PACER

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