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WITTES v. U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION and 16 other new FOIA lawsuits

by Harry Hammitt on September 21st, 2017

We have added 99 documents from 16 FOIA cases filed between September 10, 2017 and September 16, 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. WITTES v. U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (filed Sep 13, 2017)
    Benjamin Wittes, editor of the online publication Lawfare, submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records concerning communications from acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other senior officials to the FBI workforce concerning the firing of James Comey. Wittes also requested a fee waiver. Wittes submitted a second FOIA request for records concerning materials sent by senior officials to various component offices of the FBI concerning the firing of Comey. The agency combined Wittes’ two requests. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Wittes filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  2. Mackenzie v. Clayton et al (filed Sep 11, 2017)
    Douglas MacKenzie, a public researcher, submitted a FOIA request to the Securities and Exchange Commission for records sent to the 9/11/ Commission by the SEC. The agency denied MacKenzie’s request on the basis of Exemption 5 (privileges). MacKenzie filed an administrative appeal. The agency disclosed portions of a memorandum entitled “Pre-September 11, 2001 Trading Review,” but continued to withhold most records under Exemption 5 and a variety of other exemptions. MacKenzie asked for the rest of the appendices for the Trade Review memorandum. The agency declined to release any further records and MacKenzie filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  3. CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY (filed Sep 11, 2017)
    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Treasury for records concerning the use of a government plane by Secretary Mnuchin on a trip to Lexington, Kentucky. CREW also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. After hearing nothing from the agency, CREW filed suit.
    Issues: Expedited processing, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  4. Stegemann v. Berkshire County District Attorney's Office et al (filed Sep 11, 2017)
    Joshua Stegemann, a federal prisoner, submitted a public records request to the Berkshire County Drug Task Force. The agency failed to respond and Stegemann filed suit. This is not a FOIA claim since the Berkshire County Drug Task Force is not a federal agency.
    Issues: FOIA mentioned only tangentially
  5. Sierra Club v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security et al (filed Sep 12, 2017)
    The Sierra Club submitted three FOIA requests to the Department of Homeland Security for records concerning the Trump administration’s plans to expand or replace the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Sierra Club that it had located responsive records and was withholding some records under Exemption 4 (confidential business information) and Exemption 5 (privileges). The Sierra Club filed an administrative appeal of that decision and its request was remanded for a further search. The agency failed to respond to the Sierra Club’s other two requests and the Sierra Club filed an administrative appeal as to those requests. After hearing nothing further from the agency, the Sierra Club filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  6. PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE et al (filed Sep 12, 2017)
    Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way, submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records concerning what Attorney General Sessions was told by the FBI pertaining to whether or not he was required to disclose meetings he had with Russian officials while he was a Senator. RWW also requested records concerning advice given to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price as to how to fill out his disclosure forms. RWW requested expedited processing. The agency denied RWW’s request for expedited processing in regard to the request about Price. After hearing nothing further from the agency, RWW filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  7. AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (filed Sep 12, 2017)
    The American Center for Law and Justice submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Justice and the FBI for records concerning the meeting between Bill Clinton and then Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Phoenix airport in 2016. The agencies acknowledged receipt of the request. The FBI told ACLJ that it found no responsive records. After the Office of Information Policy failed to respond, ACLJ filed suit. More than a year later, OIP told ACLJ that it had located responsive records. OIP disclosed 98 pages with limited redactions. The FBI then reopened ACLJ’s request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, ACLJ filed a second complaint.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index, Search
  8. ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT LEGAL INSTITUTE v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (filed Sep 12, 2017)
    The Energy & Environment Legal Institute submitted two FOIA requests to the National Cancer Institute for specific grants and contracts approved by the agency. The agency told EELI that its requests were being put on the complex track for processing. After hearing nothing further from the agency, EELI filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  9. Conduent State Healthcare LLC et al v. United States Department of Health and Human Services (filed Sep 12, 2017)
    Conduent State Healthcare, a healthcare provider, submitted a FOIA request to the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services for records concerning its audit pertaining to the government’s attempts to recover $133 million in alleged Medicare overpayments from the State of Texas. OIG responded to the request, disclosing some records, but withholding others under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) and Exemption 7(A) (interference with ongoing investigation or proceeding). Conduent State Healthcare filed an administrative appeal to the agency, but after hearing nothing further Conduent State Healthcare filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  10. DEMOCRACY FORWARD FOUNDATION v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Sep 13, 2017)
    The Democracy Forward Foundation submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for records concerning contacts between the agency and members of the Trump Transition Team. Democracy Forward also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Democracy Forward Foundation filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  11. SARTORI v. UNITED STATES ARMY (filed Sep 13, 2017)
    Jason Satori, a major in the U.S. Army, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of the Army for records about himself to help defend him against charges that might lead to his dismissal from the Army. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Satori filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  12. Makuhari Media LLC et al v. Federal Bureau Of Investigation (filed Sep 13, 2017)
    In March 2017, Makuhari Media, a film production company, joined a FOIA request submitted by Ryan Rodenberg to the FBI for records concerning its investigation of NBA referee Tim Donaghy for wire fraud. The agency refused to process the request because it involved third-party information for which the requesters had not provided a privacy waiver. Makuhari Media filed an administrative appeal, arguing that Donaghy’s involvement had been publicly acknowledged. After the agency failed to respond, Makuhari Media renewed its complaint filed in March 2017.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  13. McLean v. Social Security Administration (filed Sep 13, 2017)
    Omel McLean, the father and natural guardian of J.N.M., a 17-year-old child, submitted a FOIA request to the Social Security Administration for records concerning a complaint McLean could pursue for failure to investigate the activities of J.N.M.’s former representative payee. After hearing nothing further from the agency, McLean filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  14. CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Sep 15, 2017)
    The Center for Public Integrity submitted five FOIA requests to the Department of State for records concerning contacts between five named agency employees regarding Michael Borden or Rick Boucher of the law firm of Sidley Austin or Andrey Kostin of VTB bank. The Center also requested expedited processing. The State Department acknowledged receipt of the requesta and granted the Center expedited processing for each one. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Center for Public Integrity filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  15. CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY (filed Sep 15, 2017)
    Center for Public Integrity submitted a FOIA request to the Department of the Treasury concerning payments made with public funds to the Trump Transition, also known as Trump for America, or anyone acting on behalf of the Trump Transition. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Center for Public Integrity filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  16. PISTON v. USCIS (filed Sep 15, 2017)
    Michael Piston, an attorney, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for records about his client Sudheer Thondapu. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Piston filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit

In addition, we have added 4 documents from 1 case, with an earlier filing date, that has recently appeared on PACER.

From → FOIA, PACER

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