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Case TitleAmerican Small Business League v. United States Small Business Administration
DistrictNorthern District of California
CitySan Francisco
Case Number3:2008cv00829
Date Filed2008-02-06
Date Closed2008-08-26
JudgeHon. Marilyn H. Patel
PlaintiffAmerican Small Business League
Case DescriptionThe American Small Business League submitted a FOIA request to the Small Business Administration for records concerning a list of small businesses named in an agency report. The agency responded that it did not maintain the information in the format requested. ASBL appealed the agency's decision. The SBA upheld is previous decision and ASBL filed suit.
Complaint issues: Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUnited States Small Business Administration
AppealNinth Circuit 08-17072
AppealNinth Circuit 09-16296
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Opinion/Order [10]
Opinion/Order [16]
Opinion/Order [21]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in California has rejected the Small Business Administration's claim that the American Small Business League did not substantially prevail in its FOIA suit against the agency because the SBA did not possess the records requested. Noting the "unusual procedural posture of the SBA's motion," Judge Marilyn Hall Patel pointed out that, rather than a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the agency's motion was actually one for summary judgment based on the claim that it had not been required to provide agency records. The American Small Business League originally brought the suit after the SBA denied its request for a list of the small business entities and contract amounts on which the agency had based its 2007 Small Business Goaling Report, stating that it had awarded $77.7 billion to small businesses in 2006. Instead, the SBA claimed it did not maintain such a list and that the information was derived from a database maintained by the General Services Administration using parameters furnished by SBA. The agency told the League to contact GSA, but, without the parameters used by the SBA, the League was unable to extract the information from the GSA database. In a May 2008 case management conference, Patel instructed the agency to deliver the requested information, which was received by the League later that month. The SBA then proposed a stipulated settlement in which the League would waive fees and costs. The League refused to do so and the agency filed its motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The SBA never requested or received a list of small businesses from GSA. But Patel noted that "that the SBA never requested nor received from GSA a list identifying small businesses and that it is GSA and not the SBA that manages the underlying raw database, do not alter the conclusion that the records requested by the League were 'agency records' of the SBA. . .[T]he SBA was in 'control' of the records at the time the League made its FOIA request because although it did not have direct access to the raw database, it had the authority and in fact exercised such authority to direct GSA to analyze the database and extract information from it. . .[I]t is the SBA, not GSA, that Congress has charged with the duty to promote the interests of small businesses and to insure that a 'fair proportion' of federal contracts are awarded to such entities. The court finds curious SBA's argument that it does not 'control' the very information it needs to carry out its duties and functions." She indicated that the list had been "created" by the SBA at the time the League made its request. She pointed out that "in computing th[e] statistics, the underlying raw data concerning individual firms and contract amounts awarded must have already been created and in existence. That a list was never printed out in hardcopy format or never exported and saved as a separate electronic file apart from the raw database does not imply that such records had not been 'created' at the time of the FOIA request." She then noted that the EFOIA amendments supported her conclusion. "That the SBA may have had to direct GSA to generate computer code to extract and compile the list of small businesses and contract amounts requested by the League is encompassed in the SBA's obligation to 'search' for electronic records." Patel observed that perhaps the strongest piece of evidence that the list was an agency record was that "the SBA in fact did [deliver the list to the League]. The SBA never claimed that extracting the information from the federal procurement database would be unduly burdensome or would interfere with the Agency's normal operation. It is peculiar that the SBA only now complains that the list was not an agency record when that list has already been searched for, retrieved, and delivered by the SBA."
Issues: Litigation - Attorney's fees - Prevailing party
Opinion/Order [23]
Opinion/Order [41]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in California has awarded the American Small Business League attorney's fees for its suit against the Small Business Administration. After an August 2007 SBA press release stated that $77.7 billion had been awarded in small business contracts in 2006, the ASBL requested a list of the small businesses and contract amounts on which the press release was based. The SBA claimed it had compiled its findings based on a database search by the General Services Administration and that ASBL would need to contact GSA. However, ASBL was not able to obtain the data from GSA because it did not know the search parameters used by SBA. The ASBL then filed suit against the SBA. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel found that the data qualified as an agency record and ordered the agency to disclose it. She then dismissed the case as moot after the agency disclosed the records. The ASBL then came back to Patel with a motion for attorney's fees. After finding that the ASBL was eligible for fees because it had substantially prevailed, Patel next examined whether the ASBL was entitled to fees. The agency argued that the ASBL had not shown that release was in the public interest. But Patel noted that "even though plaintiff does not present a specific argument that releasing the information would benefit the public, it does not follow that no benefit exists." She observed that "plaintiff made its request for a list of the small business entities receiving these contracts and contract amounts awarded, for the purpose of verifying for the public whether these recipients were indeed small businesses. The court finds that plaintiff's request for information furthered a project benefitting the general public´┐Ż"a project of holding a government agency publicly accountable for the accuracy of its statements and ensuring the agency's compliance with its Congressional mandate." She also pointed out that "because the public benefits from releasing the requested information in order to verify the SBA's public claims about the amount of federal contracts awarded to small businesses, the court finds that [the fact the ASBL is a non-profit organization] weigh[es] in favor of awarding attorneys' fees to the plaintiff." Patel concluded that the agency did not have a reasonable basis in law for denying access to the records. She pointed out that "the court previously determined that the requested records were agency records within the meaning of FOIA because the records were already in existence and were under the SBA's control. Defendant's attempt to argue otherwise is the kind of bureaucratic foot-dragging that FOIA was designed to avoid."
Issues: Litigation - Attorney's fees - Entitlement - Public benefit
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2008-02-061COMPLAINT against United States Small Business Administration (Filing fee $350, receipt number 34611015493). Filed by American Small Business League. (cjl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/6/2008) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 02/08/2008)
2008-02-06Summons Issued as to United States Small Business Administration. (cjl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/6/2008) (Entered: 02/08/2008)
2008-02-062ADR SCHEDULING ORDER: Case Management Conference set for 5/22/2008 04:00 PM. Case Management Statement due by 5/15/2008. (Attachments: # 1 Standing Order)(cjl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/6/2008) (Entered: 02/08/2008)
2008-02-06CASE DESIGNATED for Electronic Filing. (cjl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/6/2008) (Entered: 02/08/2008)
2008-02-223CLERK'S NOTICE re: Failure to E-File Docket No. 1. (cjl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/22/2008) (Entered: 02/22/2008)
2008-03-104Declination to Proceed Before a U.S. Magistrate Judge by United States Small Business Administration. (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 3/10/2008) (Entered: 03/10/2008)
2008-03-105CLERK'S NOTICE of Impending Reassignment to U.S. District Judge. (wdblc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/10/2008) Modified on 3/11/2008 (cjl, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 03/10/2008)
2008-03-116ORDER REASSIGNING CASE. Case reassigned to Hon. Marilyn H. Patel for all further proceedings. Magistrate Judge Wayne D. Brazil no longer assigned to the case. Signed by the Executive Committee on March 11, 2008. (cjl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/11/2008) (Entered: 03/11/2008)
2008-03-117CLERK'S NOTICE: Case Management Conference set for 5/19/2008 04:00 PM before the Hon. Marilyn Hall Patel; Joint Case Management Statement due by 5/9/2008. (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Filed on 3/11/2008) (Entered: 03/11/2008)
2008-03-218ANSWER to Complaint byUnited States Small Business Administration. (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 3/21/2008) (Entered: 03/21/2008)
2008-04-299STIPULATION Joint Motion to be Excused From the Formal ADR Process and Proposed Order by United States Small Business Administration. (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 4/29/2008) (Entered: 04/29/2008)
2008-05-0610STIPULATION AND ORDER REMOVING ACTION FROM ADR PROCESS; Signed by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on 5/6/2008. (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Filed on 5/6/2008) (Entered: 05/06/2008)
2008-05-0911JOINT CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT filed by United States Small Business Administration. (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 5/9/2008) (Entered: 05/09/2008)
2008-05-2012Minute Entry: Initial Case Management Conference held on 5/19/2008 before Hon. Marilyn Hall Patel (Date Filed: 5/20/2008); Further Status Conference set for 6/16/2008 03:00 PM in Courtroom 15, 18th Floor, San Francisco. (Court Reporter n/a.) (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Date Filed: 5/20/2008) (Entered: 05/20/2008)
2008-06-0213STATUS REPORT by United States Small Business Administration. (Attachments: # 1 Warrington Declaration)(Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 6/2/2008) (Entered: 06/02/2008)
2008-06-1114Joint MOTION to Vacate Status Conference and Proposed Order filed by United States Small Business Administration. (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 6/11/2008) (Entered: 06/11/2008)
2008-06-1215MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by United States Small Business Administration. Motion Hearing set for 8/11/2008 02:00 PM in Courtroom 15, 18th Floor, San Francisco. (Attachments: # 1 Proctor Declaration, # 2 Connolly Declaration, # 3 Proposed Order)(Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 6/12/2008) (Entered: 06/12/2008)
2008-06-1316STIPULATION AND ORDER vacating case management conference of 6/16/2008; Signed by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on 6/13/2008. (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Filed on 6/13/2008) (Entered: 06/13/2008)
2008-07-1517NOTICE by United States Small Business Administration of Unavailability (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 7/15/2008) (Entered: 07/15/2008)
2008-07-2118Memorandum in Opposition to MOtion to Dismiss filed byAmerican Small Business League. (Belshaw, Robert) (Filed on 7/21/2008) (Entered: 07/21/2008)
2008-07-2819Reply to Opposition filed byUnited States Small Business Administration. (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 7/28/2008) (Entered: 07/28/2008)
2008-08-1220Minute Entry: Motion Hearing held on 8/11/2008 before Hon. Marilyn Hall Patel (Date Filed: 8/12/2008) re 15 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by United States Small Business Administration. (Court Reporter Sahar McVickar.) (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Date Filed: 8/12/2008) (Entered: 08/12/2008)
2008-08-2621MEMORANDUM AND ORDER by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel denying 15 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction (summary judgment); The court dismisses this action as moot because the parties agree that defendant has delivered the records requested by the plaintiff (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Filed on 8/26/2008) (Entered: 08/26/2008)
2008-09-0822MOTION for Extension of Time to File Motion for Attoney's Fees filed by American Small Business League. (Belshaw, Robert) (Filed on 9/8/2008) (Entered: 09/08/2008)
2008-09-1023STIPULATION AND ORDER extending time to file attorneys' fees motion; Signed by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel on 9/9/2008. (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Filed on 9/10/2008) (Entered: 09/10/2008)
2008-09-1624NOTICE OF APPEAL as to 21 Order on Motion to Dismiss/Lack of Jurisdiction by United States Small Business Administration. Filing fee Waived. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/16/2008) (Entered: 09/17/2008)
2008-09-1625NOTICE of Representation Statement by United States Small Business Administration (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/16/2008) (Entered: 09/17/2008)
2008-09-1726Transmission of Notice of Appeal and Docket Sheet to US Court of Appeals re 24 Notice of Appeal (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/17/2008) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/17/2008: # 1 Order) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/18/2008: # 2 Amended Transmittal Letter) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/18/2008: # 3 Notice of Appeal, # 4 Notice of Appeal Information) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/18/2008: # 5 Docket Sheet) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 09/17/2008)
2008-09-1727Copy of Notice of Appeal and Docket sheet mailed to all counsel (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/17/2008) (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/17/2008: # 1 Appeal Transmittal Letter) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/18/2008: # 2 Amended Transmittal Letter) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 9/18/2008: # 3 Docket Sheet) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 09/17/2008)
2008-09-1728ERRONEOUS ENTRY PLEASE DISREGARD Certificate of Record Mailed to USCA re appeal 24 Notice of Appeal : (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/17/2008) Modified on 9/18/2008 (gba, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 09/17/2008)
2008-09-2229MOTION for Attorney Fees filed by American Small Business League. Motion Hearing set for 11/17/2008 02:00 PM in Courtroom 15, 18th Floor, San Francisco. (Belshaw, Robert) (Filed on 9/22/2008) (Entered: 09/22/2008)
2008-09-2230Declaration of Robert Belshaw in Support of Motion for attorneys fees filed byAmerican Small Business League. (Belshaw, Robert) (Filed on 9/22/2008) (Entered: 09/22/2008)
2008-09-2531USCA Case Number 08-17072 for 24 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Small Business Administration. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/25/2008) (Entered: 10/01/2008)
2008-10-0232TRANSCRIPT DESIGNATION and Ordering Form by United States Small Business Administration for proceedings held on 8/11/08 before Judge Marilyn H. Patel.. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/2/2008) (Entered: 10/02/2008)
2008-10-2733Memorandum in Opposition re 29 MOTION for Attorney Fees filed byUnited States Small Business Administration. (Attachments: # 1 Proctor Declaration)(Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 10/27/2008) (Entered: 10/27/2008)
2008-10-2834Declaration of Robert Belshaw [Amended] filed byAmerican Small Business League. (Belshaw, Robert) (Filed on 10/28/2008) (Entered: 10/28/2008)
2008-11-0335Reply to Opposition to motion for attorneys fees filed byAmerican Small Business League. (Belshaw, Robert) (Filed on 11/3/2008) (Entered: 11/03/2008)
2008-11-0536CLERKS NOTICE submitting plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees and costs on record; Hearing date of 11/17/2008 vacated. (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Filed on 11/5/2008) (Entered: 11/05/2008)
2008-11-1337MOTION for Leave to File Motion for Reconsideration filed by United States Small Business Administration. (Attachments: # 1 Motion for Reconsideration)(Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 11/13/2008) (Entered: 11/13/2008)
2008-11-1338EXHIBITS re 37 MOTION for Leave to File Motion for Reconsideration filed byUnited States Small Business Administration. (Related document(s) 37 ) (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 11/13/2008) (Entered: 11/13/2008)
2008-11-1439ORDER by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel denying 37 respondents' Motion for Leave to File reconsideration motion. (awb, COURT-STAFF) (Filed on 11/14/2008) (Entered: 11/14/2008)
2008-12-0440USCA Case Number 08-17072 for 24 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Small Business Administration. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/4/2008) (Entered: 12/04/2008)
2009-04-1541MEMORANDUM AND ORDER by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel granting 29 PLAINTIFF'S Motion for Attorney Fees in the amount of $ 14,282.90 (awb, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/15/2009) (Entered: 04/15/2009)
2009-05-1142MANDATE of USCA as to 24 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Small Business Administration (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/11/2009) (Entered: 05/11/2009)
2009-05-1143CLERKS Letter Spreading Mandate to Counsel (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/11/2009) (Entered: 05/11/2009)
2009-06-1244NOTICE OF APPEAL as to 41 Order on Motion for Attorney Fees by United States Small Business Administration. Filing fee Waived. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/12/2009) (Entered: 06/12/2009)
2009-06-1845Transmission of Notice of Appeal and Docket Sheet to US Court of Appeals re 44 Notice of Appeal. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/18/2009) (Additional attachment(s) added on 6/18/2009: # 1 Memorandum and Order) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 6/18/2009: # 2 Notice of Appeal Notification Form) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Additional attachment(s) added on 6/18/2009: # 3 Docket Sheet) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 06/18/2009)
2009-06-1846Copy of Notice of Appeal and Docket sheet mailed to all counsel. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/18/2009) (Additional attachment(s) added on 6/18/2009: # 1 Docket Sheet) (gba, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 06/18/2009)
2009-06-2547USCA Case Number 09-16296 for 44 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Small Business Administration. (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/25/2009) (Entered: 06/25/2009)
2009-07-0948CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by United States Small Business Administration -TRANSCRIPT DESIGNATION and ORDERING FORM (Proctor, Melanie) (Filed on 7/9/2009) (Entered: 07/09/2009)
2009-07-0949Transcript Designation and Ordering Form: no dates designated. (slh, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/9/2009) (Entered: 07/10/2009)
2009-07-1050Certificate of Record forwarded to USCA re 44 Notice of Appeal. (slh, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/10/2009) (Entered: 07/10/2009)
2009-07-2451Receipt from USCA re Certificate of Record. (slh, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/24/2009) (Entered: 07/24/2009)
2009-10-1452MANDATE of USCA as to 44 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Small Business Administration (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/14/2009) (Entered: 10/14/2009)
2009-10-1453CLERKS Letter Spreading Mandate to Counsel (gba, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 10/14/2009) (Entered: 10/14/2009)
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