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Case TitleWRIGHT v. ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2015cv00218
Date Filed2015-02-12
Date Closed2016-10-11
JudgeChief Judge Beryl A. Howell
PlaintiffCHRIS WRIGHT
Case DescriptionChris Wright submitted a FOIA request to the Administration for Children and Families for records concerning an Office of Refugee Resettlement grant to BCFS HHS as well as records concerning BCFS' lobbying expenditures. Wright had several exchanges with the agency pertaining to his request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, he filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Recovery of Costs

DefendantADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (ACF) (HHS)
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [26]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Beryl Howell has ruled that the Administration for Children and Families conducted an adequate search for the remaining subparts of Chris Wright's multi-part request for records concerning a grant to Baptist Children and Family Services for the provision of residential shelter services for unaccompanied alien children and that it properly withheld some records under Exemption 5 (privileges). Howell had previously ruled in favor of ACF on most other counts, but in this ruling addressed Wright's remaining allegations concerning the search and the Exemption 5 claims. Wright argued the agency had failed to search certain locations. Howell noted however that "the plaintiff has not pointed to any 'positive indications of overlooked materials,' nor has he shown that the 'agency had reason to know that certain places [not searched] may contain' additional documents responsive [to Wright's request]." For several other subparts of his request, the agency had told Wright it did not collect the information he was requesting. The agency identified those files it deemed most likely to have responsive records if the information existed, but found no records. Approving of the agency's processing, Howell observed that "having attested to the unlikelihood of the existence of any responsive agency records, [the agency] was not required to perform the more exhaustive search the plaintiff apparently demands. On the contrary, an agency is only required to search record systems 'likely' to yield responsive documents." Wright questioned the search of various staffers' email accounts, arguing that the agency should have searched personal accounts to determine if agency staff had used their individual email accounts to correspond with the grantee. Howell agreed that the recent decision in Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science and Technology Policy, 827 F.3d 145 (D.C. Cir. 2016), found that agencies were required to process records from personal accounts when they were used to conduct agency business, but that "the presumption applies that agency employees comply with applicable law and, consequently, that agency records responsive to a FOIA request would unlikely be located solely in their personal email accounts, rendering such a search of those accounts unnecessary." She pointed out that "the requester bears the burden of rebutting the presumption of good faith required to be accorded to the agency's declarations, and the plaintiff has not overcome the presumption that agency records are unlikely to exist on the agency employees' personal accounts." Howell rejected Wright's contention that the misconduct exception to legal privileges applied to the agency's deliberative process privilege claims. Instead, she found the exception did not apply in the Exemption 5 context because "Exemption 5's protection of privileged materials is not subject to the same exceptions to which the common law privilege is susceptible." She added that such common law exceptions "cannot overcome an otherwise valid withholding pursuant to Exemption 5."
Issues: Adequacy - Search, Exemption 5 - Privileges
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2015-02-121COMPLAINT against ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES ( Filing fee $ 400, receipt number 4616068431) filed by CHRIS WRIGHT. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(jf, ) (Entered: 02/13/2015)
2015-02-12SUMMONS (3) Issued as to ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (jf, ) (Entered: 02/13/2015)
2015-02-132STANDING ORDER. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on February 13, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 02/13/2015)
2015-02-273RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES served on 2/24/2015 (jf, ) (Entered: 03/02/2015)
2015-03-024RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 2/18/2015., RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 2/18/2015. ( Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 3/20/2015.) (rdj) (Entered: 03/03/2015)
2015-03-165NOTICE of Appearance by Jesse Dyer Stewart on behalf of ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 03/16/2015)
2015-03-166First MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order, # 2 Certificate of Service)(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 03/16/2015)
2015-03-16MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the defendant's 6 Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Answer or Otherwise Respond to the Complaint. Accordingly, the defendant shall, by April 20, 2015, answer or otherwise respond to the plaintiff's 1 Complaint. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on March 16, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 03/16/2015)
2015-03-16Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer to the Complaint due by 4/20/2015. (tg, ) (Entered: 03/16/2015)
2015-04-167MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer or Otherwise Respond by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 04/16/2015)
2015-04-16MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the defendant's 7 Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Answer or Otherwise Respond to the Complaint. Accordingly, the defendant shall, by May 5, 2015, answer or otherwise respond to the plaintiff's 1 Complaint. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on April 16, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 04/16/2015)
2015-04-17Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer to the Complaint due by 5/5/2015. (zg, ) (Entered: 04/17/2015)
2015-04-288Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer or Otherwise Respond by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 04/28/2015)
2015-04-29MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the defendant's 8 Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Answer or Otherwise Respond to the Complaint. Accordingly, the defendant shall, by June 4, 2015, answer or otherwise respond to the plaintiff's 1 Complaint. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on April 29, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 04/29/2015)
2015-04-29Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer to the Complaint due by 6/4/2015. (tg, ) (Entered: 04/29/2015)
2015-06-039ANSWER to 1 Complaint by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 06/03/2015)
2015-06-0310Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to Submit a Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 06/03/2015)
2015-06-04MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the defendant's 10 Consent Motion to Extend Time for Submitting a Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule. Accordingly, the parties shall, by July 6, 2015, file a joint proposed briefing schedule as directed by the Court's 2 Standing Order. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on June 4, 2014. (lcbah3) (Entered: 06/04/2015)
2015-06-04Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule due by 7/6/2015. (tg) (Entered: 06/04/2015)
2015-07-0611Joint MOTION for Briefing Schedule by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 07/06/2015)
2015-07-07MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the parties' 11 Joint Report and Motion Proposing a Briefing Schedule and ISSUING the following SCHEDULING ORDER to control the timing of proceedings in this matter: the defendant's dispositive motion, if any, shall be filed by August 5, 2015. The plaintiff's dispositive motion, if any, and opposition to the defendant's dispositive motion shall be filed by September 4, 2015. The defendant's reply to the plaintiff's opposition and opposition to the plaintiff's dispositive motion shall be filed by September 25, 2016. The plaintiff's reply to the defendant's opposition shall be filed by October 2, 2015. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on July 7, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 07/07/2015)
2015-07-07Set/Reset Deadlines: Dispositive Motion due by 8/5/2015; Cross-Motion and Opposition to Dispositive Motion due by 9/4/2015; Opposition to Cross-Motion and Reply to Opposition to Dispositive Motion due by 9/25/2015; Reply to Opposition to Cross Motion due by 10/2/2015. (tg) (Entered: 07/07/2015)
2015-07-3112STIPULATION (Joint) of Issues to Be Briefed by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 07/31/2015)
2015-08-0313ORDER regarding the parties' 12 Joint Stipulation as to Issues to be Briefed. See Order for further details. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on August 3, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 08/03/2015)
2015-08-0414MOTION for Extension of Time to File a Dispositive Motion by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 08/04/2015)
2015-08-04MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the defendant's 14 Motion to Extend Time for Defendant to File a Dispositive Motion. Accordingly, the defendant shall, by August 19, 2015, file any dispositive motion. The plaintiff's dispositive motion, if any, and opposition to the defendant's dispositive motion shall be filed by September 18, 2015. The defendant's reply to the plaintiff's opposition and opposition to the plaintiff's dispositive motion shall be filed by October 9, 2015. The plaintiff's reply to the defendant's opposition shall be filed by October 16, 2015. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on August 4, 2015. (lcbah3 ) (Entered: 08/04/2015)
2015-08-05Set/Reset Deadlines: Dispositive Motion due by 8/19/2015; Cross-Motion/Opposition to Dispositive Motion due by 9/18/2015; Opposition to Cross-Motion/Reply to Dispositive Motion due by 10/9/2015; Reply to Opposition to Cross Motion due by 10/16/2015. (tg) (Entered: 08/05/2015)
2015-08-1815Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Dispositive Motions by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 08/18/2015)
2015-08-18MINUTE ORDER (paperless) GRANTING the parties' 15 Consent Motion to Extend Briefing Schedule. Accordingly, the defendant shall, by September 2, 2015, file any dispositive motion. The plaintiff's dispositive motion, if any, and opposition to the defendant's dispositive motion shall be filed by October 2, 2015. The defendant's reply to the plaintiff's opposition and opposition to the plaintiff's dispositive motion shall be filed by October 23, 2015. The plaintiff's reply to the defendant's opposition shall be filed by October 30, 2015. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on August 18, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 08/18/2015)
2015-08-18Set/Reset Deadlines: Dispositive Motion due by 9/2/2015; Cross-Motion and Opposition to Dispositive Motion due by 10/2/2015; Opposition to Cross-Motion and Reply to Dispositive Motion due by 10/23/2015; Reply to Opposition to Cross Motion due by 10/30/2015. (tg) (Entered: 08/18/2015)
2015-09-0216MOTION for Summary Judgment by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Ms. Kimberly Epstein, # 2 Government Exhibits 1-15, # 3 Exhibit 16, Vaughn Index, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Stewart, Jesse) (Entered: 09/02/2015)
2015-09-0317NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Stephanie Nicole Liaw on behalf of All Defendants Substituting for attorney Jesse Stewart (Liaw, Stephanie) (Entered: 09/03/2015)
2015-09-0318Fox/Neal Order. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on September 3, 2015. (lcbah3) (Entered: 09/03/2015)
2015-10-0219Memorandum in opposition to re 16 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by CHRIS WRIGHT. (jf) (Entered: 10/05/2015)
2015-10-2320REPLY to opposition to motion re 16 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. (Liaw, Stephanie) (Entered: 10/23/2015)
2015-11-0221SURREPLY to re 16 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by CHRIS WRIGHT. "Leave to file GRANTED", by Judge Beryl A. Howell (zrdj) (Entered: 11/04/2015)
2015-11-1922NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Caitlin O'Leary Trujillo on behalf of All Defendants Substituting for attorney Stephanie Liaw (Trujillo, Caitlin) (Entered: 11/19/2015)
2016-05-0923NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Brian J. Field on behalf of All Defendants Substituting for attorney Caitlin O. Trujillo (Field, Brian) (Entered: 05/09/2016)
2016-09-3024ORDER GRANTING the defendant's 16 Motion for Summary Judgment. See Order for further details. Signed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on September 30, 2016. (lcbah2) (Entered: 09/30/2016)
2016-10-1125ORDER GRANTING the defendant's 16 Motion for Summary Judgment. The Clerk is directed to close this case. See Order for further details. Signed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on October 11, 2016. (lcbah2) (Entered: 10/11/2016)
2016-10-1126MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding the defendant's 16 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on October 11, 2016. (lcbah2) (Entered: 10/11/2016)
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by FOIA Project Staff