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Case TitleLIBERATION NEWSPAPER v. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2013cv00836
Date Filed2013-06-05
Date Closed2015-02-20
JudgeJudge Beryl A. Howell
PlaintiffLIBERATION NEWSPAPER
DefendantDEPARTMENT OF STATE
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
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Opinion/Order [28]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Beryl Howell has ruled that the State Department conducted an adequate search for records concerning alleged payments to Miami-based journalists to provide favorable coverage of the trial of five individuals who were tried for acting as unregistered Cuban intelligence agents. Liberation Newspaper requested any contracts showing payments to 90 journalists between 1998 and 2002. Liberation believed the payments would have been authorized by U.S. Information Agency, which was abolished in 1999 and whose records were transferred to the custody of the State Department. State found no records and Liberation challenging the adequacy of the agency's search, produced a "purchase order" for $28,000 paid to one of the identified journalists for "public relations services" during the relevant time period that Liberation had found by searching the public Federal Procurement Data System. After reviewing the agency's three detailed affidavits, Howell noted that "the defendant reviewed both hard copy and electronic documents contained in numerous databases across multiple divisions within the State Department. Beyond the requirements placed upon the defendant, defendant responded to criticism from the plaintiff and revised its search parameters to provide an even broader search for responsive documents. Although the plaintiff has pointed to a single document discovered outside of the search process, one such document is not 'sufficient to overcome an adequate agency affidavit,' let alone the three declarations submitted in the present case." Liberation also complained that State's search of retired USIA records was inadequate. Howell pointed out, however, that "after consultation with analysts familiar with the FOIA request and the retired records system, along with the former records manager for the USIA, the defendant manually searched all the descriptions [of relevant retired USIA records] dated January 1998 to December 2002, the period of time sought by the plaintiffs. The search yielded no results." Liberation also challenged the search terms used. Howell indicated that "although the defendant used different search terms for different databases, this discrepancy does not undermine the conclusion that the search was reasonable given that the search terms were used after consultation with employees familiar with the databases and were reasonably designed to yield responsive information."
Issues: Adequacy - Search
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2013-06-051COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF(FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, 5 U.S.C. SECTION 552, ET SEQ.) against DEPARTMENT OF STATE ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-3350338) filed by LIBERATION NEWSPAPER. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Exhibit Attachment 1, # 3 Exhibit Attachment 2, # 4 Exhibit Attachment 3, # 5 Exhibit Attachment 4, # 6 Exhibit Attachment 5, # 7 Exhibit Attachment 6, # 8 Exhibit Attachment 7, # 9 Exhibit Attachment 8, # 10 Exhibit Attachment 9, # 11 Exhibit Attachment 10, # 12 Exhibit Attachment 11, # 13 Exhibit Attachment 12, # 14 Exhibit Attachment 13, # 15 Exhibit Attachment 14, # 16 Summons, # 17 Summons, # 18 Summons, # 19 Corporate Disclosure Statement)(Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara) (Entered: 06/05/2013)
2013-06-05Case Assigned to Judge Beryl A. Howell. (sth) (Entered: 06/06/2013)
2013-06-062Electronic Summons (3) Issued as to DEPARTMENT OF STATE, ATTORNEY GENERAL AND THE U S ATTORNEY. (Attachments: # 1 Summons, # 2 Summons, # 3 Summons)(sth) (Entered: 06/06/2013)
2013-06-063STANDING ORDER. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on 06/06/2013. (lcbah2) (Entered: 06/06/2013)
2013-06-104NOTICE of Appearance by Carl L. Messineo on behalf of LIBERATION NEWSPAPER (Messineo, Carl) (Entered: 06/10/2013)
2013-06-105NOTICE of Appearance by Heather Mirium Benno on behalf of LIBERATION NEWSPAPER (Benno, Heather) (Entered: 06/10/2013)
2013-06-206RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 6/17/2013. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 7/17/2013. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Certified Mail Card)(Benno, Heather) (Entered: 06/20/2013)
2013-06-207RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 06/17/13. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Certified Mail Card)(Benno, Heather) (Entered: 06/20/2013)
2013-06-218RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. DEPARTMENT OF STATE served on 6/18/2013 (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Certified Mail Card)(Benno, Heather) (Entered: 06/21/2013)
2013-07-129MOTION for Extension of Time to Respond to Plaintiff's Complaint by DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Spittell, John) (Entered: 07/12/2013)
2013-07-1510RESPONSE re 9 MOTION for Extension of Time to Respond to Plaintiff's Complaint filed by LIBERATION NEWSPAPER. (Messineo, Carl) (Entered: 07/15/2013)
2013-07-15MINUTE ORDER (paperless) granting 9 Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to Plaintiff's Complaint upon consideration of the reasons stated for the defendant's need for an extension of time and the opposition. The defendant shall respond to the Complaint by August 16, 2013. The parties shall comply, by August 26, 2013, with paragraph 3(b)(ii) of the 3 Standing Order. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on 07/15/2013. (lcbah2) (Entered: 07/15/2013)
2013-07-16Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer to the complaint due by 8/16/2013. Parties' compliance with paragraph 3(b)(ii) of the 3 Standing Order due by 8/26/2013. (tg, ) (Entered: 07/16/2013)
2013-08-1611ANSWER to Complaint by DEPARTMENT OF STATE.(Spittell, John) (Entered: 08/16/2013)
2013-08-2612Joint MOTION for Scheduling Order by DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Spittell, John) (Entered: 08/26/2013)
2013-08-27MINUTE ORDER (paperless) Upon consideration of the Parties' Joint Report 12 submitted pursuant to Rule 3(b)(ii) of the Court's Standing Order for Civil Cases, the Court adopts the following SCHEDULING ORDER: (1) the Department of State ("State") shall expeditiously and as soon as practicable complete a search reasonably likely to yield all responsive records in its possession, custody or control without assessing search or review fees; (2) State shall produce to Plaintiff its first release of any responsive records located and subject to release under the FOIA by October 26, 2013, and shall make supplemental productions on a rolling basis each six weeks thereafter, until all responsive and non-exempt documents are produced; (3) State shall complete production of all responsive records by March 31, 2014; (4) to the extent that State has identified any responsive records exempt from production, State shall produce a Vaughn index encompassing any withheld information by April 14, 2014; (5) State shall file any Motion for Summary Judgment by April 14, 2014; Plaintiff shall file any Opposition and/or Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by May 17, 2014; State shall file any Reply and/or Opposition by June 16, 2014; and Plaintiff shall file any Reply by July 5, 2014. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on 08/27/2013. (lcbah2) (Entered: 08/27/2013)
2013-08-27Set/Reset Deadlines: Production of responsive records under FOIA due by 10/26/2013; supplemental production due by 3/31/2014. Vaughn Index due by 4/14/2014. Summary Judgment motion due by 4/14/2014; Cross-Motion and Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 5/17/2014; Opposition to Cross-Motion and Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 6/16/2014. Reply to Cross Motion due by 7/5/2014. (tg, ) (Entered: 08/27/2013)
2013-10-2813NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Kevin Michael Laden on behalf of All Defendants Substituting for attorney John H. Spittell (Laden, Kevin) (Entered: 10/28/2013)
2013-10-2814MOTION for Extension of Time to Produce First Set of Responsive Records and Status Report by DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Laden, Kevin) (Entered: 10/28/2013)
2013-10-2915RESPONSE re 14 MOTION for Extension of Time to Produce First Set of Responsive Records and Status Report filed by LIBERATION NEWSPAPER. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Attachment 1, # 2 Text of Proposed Order Attachment 2)(Benno, Heather) (Entered: 10/29/2013)
2013-10-30MINUTE ORDER (paperless) granting the Defendant's 14 Status Report and Motion for Extension of the Deadline for Any First Production. The Defendant shall produce to Plaintiff its first release of any responsive records located and subject to release under the FOIA by December 9, 2013, on which date, the Defendant is also directed to submit to the Court an updated Status Report regarding the release of records, if any, and providing an explanation for why the defendant adopted a search methodology that did not initiate the search for responsive records in the repository of retired or archived records of the former United States Information Agency ("USAI"), which the Plaintiff has identified as the likely repository of responsive documents. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on 10/30/2013. (lcbah2) (Entered: 10/30/2013)
2013-10-30Set/Reset Deadlines: Release of records due by 12/9/2013. (tg, ) (Entered: 10/30/2013)
2013-11-1216NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Wenqiong Fu on behalf of All Defendants Substituting for attorney Kevin Laden (Fu, Wenqiong) (Entered: 11/12/2013)
2013-12-0917STATUS REPORT by DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit 1, # 3 Exhibit 2)(Fu, Wenqiong) (Entered: 12/09/2013)
2014-01-2418STATUS REPORT #2 by DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Fu, Wenqiong) (Entered: 01/24/2014)
2014-03-2819NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Dionne S. Shy on behalf of DEPARTMENT OF STATE Substituting for attorney Wenqiong Fu (Shy, Dionne) (Entered: 03/28/2014)
2014-04-1120NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF APPEARANCE as to LIBERATION NEWSPAPER. Attorney Heather Mirium Benno terminated. (Messineo, Carl) (Entered: 04/11/2014)
2014-04-14NOTICE OF ERROR re 20 Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance; emailed to cm@JusticeOnline.org, cc'd 5 associated attorneys -- The PDF file you docketed contained errors: 1. FYI:Counsel is reminded each attorney must use THEIR ASSIGNED password/login (refer to LCvR 5.4(b) (zrdj, ) (Entered: 04/14/2014)
2014-04-1421MOTION for Summary Judgment and Alternative Motion to Dismiss by DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Memorandum in Support, # 3 Declaration of Sheryl Walter, # 4 Declaration (Second) of Sheryl Walter, # 5 Exhibit A, # 6 Exhibit B, # 7 Exhibit C, # 8 Exhibit D, # 9 Exhibit E)(Shy, Dionne). Added MOTION to Dismiss on 4/15/2014 (rdj). (Entered: 04/14/2014)
2014-05-1522Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 21 MOTION for Summary Judgment and Alternative Motion to Dismiss MOTION to Dismiss and/or Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by LIBERATION NEWSPAPER (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Messineo, Carl) (Entered: 05/15/2014)
2014-05-15MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the plaintiff's 22 Consent Motion for an Extension of Time to File Its Opposition. Accordingly, the Court enters the following revised SCHEDULING ORDER to control the timing of proceedings in this matter: the plaintiff shall, by June 6, 2014 file any opposition and/or cross-motion for summary judgment. The defendant shall, by July 7, 2014, file any reply and/or opposition. The plaintiff shall, by July 25, 2014, file any reply. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on May 15, 2014. (lcbah2) (Entered: 05/15/2014)
2014-05-16Set/Reset Deadlines: Cross-Motion and Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 6/6/2014; Opposition to Cross-Motion and Reply to Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 7/7/2014; Reply to Opposition to Cross Motion due by 7/25/2014. (tg, ) (Entered: 05/16/2014)
2014-06-0623Memorandum in opposition to re 21 MOTION for Summary Judgment and Alternative Motion to Dismiss MOTION to Dismiss filed by LIBERATION NEWSPAPER. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1, # 2 Exhibit 2, # 3 Exhibit 3, # 4 Exhibit 4, # 5 Exhibit 5, # 6 Exhibit 6, # 7 Exhibit 7, # 8 Exhibit 8, # 9 Exhibit 9, # 10 Exhibit 10, # 11 Exhibit 11, # 12 Exhibit 12, # 13 Exhibit 13, # 14 Exhibit 14, # 15 Exhibit 15, # 16 Exhibit 16, # 17 Exhibit 17, # 18 Declaration Benjamin Becker, # 19 Declaration Carl Messineo, # 20 Statement of Facts)(Messineo, Carl) (Entered: 06/06/2014)
2014-06-2524Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Reply by DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Shy, Dionne) (Entered: 06/25/2014)
2014-06-25MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the defendant's 24 Motion for Extension of Time to File Reply, which is unopposed. Accordingly, the defendant shall file any reply by August 7, 2014. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on June 25, 2014. (lcbah2) (Entered: 06/25/2014)
2014-06-26Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Reply due by 8/7/2014. (tg, ) (Entered: 06/26/2014)
2014-08-0725Defendant's Reply Regarding 21 Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment filed by DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1 (Declaration of John Hackett))(Shy, Dionne) Modified on 8/8/2014 to correct linkage (rdj). (Entered: 08/07/2014)
2014-08-2926NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF APPEARANCE as to DEPARTMENT OF STATE. Attorney Dionne S. Shy terminated. (Shy, Dionne) (Entered: 08/29/2014)
2014-09-2327NOTICE of Appearance by Jodi T. George on behalf of All Defendants (George, Jodi) (Entered: 09/23/2014)
2015-02-1928MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding the defendant's 21 Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on February 19, 2015. (lcbah2) (Entered: 02/19/2015)
2015-02-1929ORDER GRANTING the defendant's 21 Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. See Order for further details. The Clerk is directed to close the case. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on February 19, 2015. (lcbah2) (Entered: 02/19/2015)
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