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DEMOCRACY FORWARD FOUNDATION v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION and 18 other new FOIA lawsuits

by Harry Hammitt on July 6th, 2017

We have added 111 documents from 19 FOIA cases filed between June 25, 2017 and July 1, 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. DEMOCRACY FORWARD FOUNDATION v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (filed Jun 30, 2017)
    The Democracy Forward Foundation submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Transportation for records concerning the use of encrypted and ephemeral social media applications by the agency to avoid creating and retaining public records. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Democracy Forward Foundation filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  2. NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC. v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (filed Jun 26, 2017)
    The Natural Resources Defense Council submitted a FOIA request to the EPA for records concerning policies for removing information from the agency’s website. The agency rejected NRDC’s request, claiming it did not sufficiently describe the records sought. The agency also told NRDC that it would close the request if it did not hear from NRDC within 10 days. NRDC replied, arguing that its request was sufficiently descriptive. After hearing nothing further from the agency, NRDC filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Request – Specificity
  3. AMERICAN OVERSIGHT v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (filed Jun 26, 2017)
    American Oversight submitted two FOIA requests to the Department of Education. The first FOIA request was for appointment calendars for Secretary Betty DeVos. The second FOIA request was for records of contacts between Taylor Hansen and Robert Eitel, two advocates for for-profit schools, and DeVos or others at the agency. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests and granted American Oversight’s request for a fee waiver for the records concerning Hansen and Eitel. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, American Oversight filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  4. Alexander v. Federal Aviation Administration (filed Jun 26, 2017)
    Timothy Alexander submitted a FOIA request to the Federal Aviation Administration for records concerning a complaint he filed against Piedmont Airlines in 2003. Alexander had made several unsuccessful FOIA requests for the records, the most recent of which was submitted in 2010. He filed suit claiming the agency had failed to respond to his 2010 request.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  5. Boundaoui v. Federal Bureau of Investigation et al (filed Jun 26, 2017)
    Assia Bourndaoui, a journalist and filmmaker, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for records concerning Operation Vulgar Betrayal, an anti-terrorism operation conducted during the 1990s and 2000s targeting Arab neighborhoods in Chicago. Boundaoui also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver, both of which were denied. Boundaoui filed an administrative appeal. She was subsequently told by the FBI that her request would take three years to process. She then filed suit.
    Issues: Expedited processing, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  6. Valencia v. United States Transportation Security Administration (filed Jun 26, 2017)
    Felipe Valencia submitted a FOIA request to the Transportation Security Administration for records concerning a random screening of him by the agency in 2013. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Valencia filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  7. Valencia v. United States Social Security Administration (filed Jun 26, 2017)
    Felipe Valencia submitted a FOIA request to the Social Security Administration for records concerning his application for social security benefits. He also requested information about contacts between the agency and the Department of Homeland Security concerning Valencia’s visit to the SSA’s Holland, Michigan office. The agency responded to the first part of Valencia’s request, but not the second part. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Valencia filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  8. Council on American-Islamic Relations – Connecticut et al v. US Citizenship and Immigration Services et al (filed Jun 27, 2017)
    The Council on American-Islamic Relations-Connecticut and Make the Road New York submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for records concerning policies regarding screening of individuals at ports of entry. The organizations also submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for records concerning the criteria used in considering visa applications. The organizations also submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records concerning criteria used in considering visa applications. The agencies acknowledged receipt of the requests, but after hearing nothing further from any of the agencies, the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Connecticut and Make the Road New York filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  9. AMERICAN OVERSIGHT v. U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (filed Jun 27, 2017)
    American Oversight submitted two FOIA requests. The first FOIA request was for records concerning Administrator Scott Pruitt’s appointment calendars. The second FOIA request was for records concerning contacts with investor Carl Icahn and/or Valero Energy. The agency acknowledged receipt of both requests. It asked American Oversight for clarification of its request pertaining to Icahn. American Oversight provided clarification and the agency agreed to begin processing the request. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, American Oversight filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  10. Williams v. US Department of Justice (filed Jun 27, 2017)
    Dennis Williams, a retired FBI agent, submitted two FOIA requests to the Department of Justice for records. The first request concerned records pertaining to Williams being designated a whistleblower by the Office of Professional Responsibility. The second FOIA request concerned records pertaining to the decision to prosecute Thomas Pickard. In response to the first request, the agency disclosed 724 pages and withheld 519 pages. Williams filed an administrative appeal of that decision, which was denied. In response to the second FOIA request, the agency issued a Glomar response refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records. Williams filed an administrative appeal of that decision as well, which was also denied. He then filed suit.
    Issues: Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  11. QUALITY CONTROL SYSTEMS CORP. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (filed Jun 28, 2017)
    Quality Control Systems submitted a FOIA request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for records concerning the closing of an investigation of Tesla’s mileage and airbag deployment. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and told Quality Control Systems that it would provide an interim response and would also take a 10-day extension. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Quality Control Systems filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  12. AMERICAN OVERSIGHT v. U.S. GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION (filed Jun 28, 2017)
    American Oversight submitted three FOIA requests to the General Services Administration. The first FOIA request was for records concerning the GSA’s oversight of the Trump International Hotel. The second FOIA request was for records concerning contacts between the agency and members of the Trump administration’s transition team. The third FOIA request was for records concerning contacts between the acting administrator of the GSA and the Trump administration. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests and granted American Oversight’s request for expedited processing for all three requests. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, American Oversight filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  13. CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (filed Jun 28, 2017)
    The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a FOIA request to the EPA for records concerning revised water quality criteria for cadium from a specific docket. The agency granted the Center’s request for a fee waiver. The agency located 654 responsive records and disclosed 287 records in full. The agency withheld 280 records in full and partially disclosed a further 87 records. The agency cited Exemption 5 (privileges) and Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) as the basis for its decision to withhold records. The Center filed an administrative appeal. The agency granted the Center’s appeal to the extent that the response had failed to adequately explain the basis for exemption claims. However, it upheld other portions of the exemption claims. In response to the agency’s remand of the appeal, the agency disclosed an additional 11 documents with fewer redactions and provided 34 records that had previously been withheld. The Center for Biological Diversity then filed suit.
    Issues: Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Segregability
  14. PUBLIC EMPLOYEES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY v. UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE (filed Jun 29, 2017)
    Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility submitted a FOIA request to the U.S. Forest Service for records concerning a news release issued by the agency after it issued a report on timber sales in the Tongass National Forest as well as how the agency addressed various issues identified in the report. After hearing nothing further from the agency, PEER filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  15. THE JAMES MADISON PROJECT et al v. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (filed Jun 29, 2017)
    The James Madison Project and Daily Beast reporters Noah Shachtman and Betsy Woodruff submitted FOIA requests to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Safety Administration, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for records concerning instructions for implementing the recently reinstated travel ban. The agencies acknowledged receipt of the requests, but after hearing nothing further from the agencies, the James Madison Project, Shachtman, and Woodruff filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  16. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (filed Jun 29, 2017)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for records concerning communications between the Corps and various environmental advocacy groups pertaining to the Dakota Access Pipeline or the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. 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
  17. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE (filed Jun 29, 2017)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for records concerning communications between NOAA scientist Thomas Karl and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren. 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
  18. DEMOCRACY FORWARD FOUNDATION v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE (filed Jun 30, 2017)
    The Democracy Forward Foundation submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Commerce for records concerning the resignation of Census Bureau Director John Thompson. The Democracy Forward Foundation also requested a fee waiver. After hearing nothing further from the agency, the Democracy Forward Foundation filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  19. DEMOCRACY FORWARD FOUNDATION v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (filed Jun 30, 2017)
    The Democracy Forward Foundation submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Transportation for records concerning attachments and other documents sent to several informal advisors of the Trump administration. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Democracy Forward Foundation filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index

From → FOIA, PACER

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