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Case TitleJUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2015cv00646
Date Filed2015-04-28
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
PlaintiffJUDICIAL WATCH, INC.
Case DescriptionJudicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records concerning any requests by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for permission to use a iPhone or iPad for official business and any internal agency communications concerning the unauthorized use of electronic devices to conduct government business. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after the agency failed to respond within the statutory time limits, Judicial Watch filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE The Executive Office, Office of the Legal Adviser
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Opinion/Order [37]
FOIA Project Annotation: After conducting an in camera review, Judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly has ruled that Judicial Watch failed to point to any discussions the State Department had withheld under Exemption 5 (privileges) pertaining to the use of unauthorized electronic devices by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or her staff that qualifies for the government misconduct exception. Although Kollar-Kotelly explained that the D.C. Circuit's decision in In re Sealed Case, 121 F.3d 729 (D.C. Cir. 1997) did not approve of the government misconduct exception in the FOIA context, she indicated that district court judges in the D.C. Circuit had accepted the possibility that the exception could apply through FOIA. But she pointed out that those judges had found the plaintiff was required to satisfy a high bar for invoking the exception. Applying that high bar, Kollar-Kotelly noted that "these documents show that agency leadership apparently sought to use personal electronic devices in ways that were not customary within the agency. In turn, agency staff engaged in discussions of the leadership's preferences and the efforts to accommodate those preferences. While staff had to resolve some disagreements in the process, these discussions do not evince 'nefarious motives' or warrant a finding of 'extreme government wrongdoing.'" She pointed out that "plaintiff essentially asks the Court to make, or rely on, a determination that the Secretary's conduct constituted wrongdoing. But it is unnecessary to decide that issue because the discussions themselves do not rise to the level so as to trigger the exception, regardless of the lawfulness, or propriety, of the underlying conduct." Kollar-Kotelly also indicated that the issue of whether the State Department now controlled emails the FBI recovered from a laptop belonging to Huma Abedin's ex-spouse might now be moot. Since the agency had now processed those records, the only remaining challenge Judicial Watch could raise would be if the State Department had withheld any of those emails under exemptions.
Issues: Exemption 5 - Privileges
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2015-04-281COMPLAINT against U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-4072662) filed by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, # 3 Summons U.S. Attorney General, # 4 Summons U.S. Department of State)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 04/28/2015)
2015-04-282LCvR 7.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. (Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 04/28/2015)
2015-04-28Case Assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. (md, ) (Entered: 04/29/2015)
2015-04-293SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Notice of Consent, # 2 Consent Form) (md, ) (Entered: 04/29/2015)
2015-04-294ORDER Establishing Procedures for Cases Assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on April 29, 2015. (NS) (Entered: 04/29/2015)
2015-05-115RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 5/4/2015. ( Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 6/3/2015.), RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 05/04/2015., RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE served on 5/4/2015 (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of C. Rotaru)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 05/11/2015)
2015-06-036Defendant's ANSWER to Complaint by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE.(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 06/03/2015)
2015-06-037ORDER requiring the parties to MEET and CONFER and file Joint StatusReport proposing a schedule for further proceedings by no later than JULY 2, 2015. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 6/3/2015. (lcckk2) (Entered: 06/03/2015)
2015-06-03Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 7/2/2015. (dot) (Entered: 06/11/2015)
2015-07-028STATUS REPORT JOINT by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC.. (Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 07/02/2015)
2015-07-07MINUTE ORDER (paperless). The Court has received and considered the parties' 8 Joint Status Report regarding further proceedings in this FOIA case. Although the parties disagree on various aspects of setting a schedule, they agree that the first production of responsive documents should be on August 20, 2015. Accordingly, Defendant shall make its first production of responsive records by no later than AUGUST 20, 2015. In addition, the parties shall file a Joint Status Report by no later than SEPTEMBER 1, 2015, proposing a schedule for further productions and indicating the volume and scope of responsive documents. The parties shall meet and confer with sufficient time prior to the filing of that Joint Status Report such that the Status Report reflects both parties' positions on a proposed schedule. The Court will not set a final deadline for all productions until after it has had an opportunity to consider that Joint Status Report—in order to leave open the possibility that the production of documents can be completed more expeditiously than the January 2016 deadline proposed by the Defendant. In the interim, however, the Court will tentatively require the rolling productions to continue every six weeks after the initial August 20, 2015, production. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 7/7/2015. (lcckk2) (Entered: 07/07/2015)
2015-07-07Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 9/1/2015. (dot) (Entered: 07/07/2015)
2015-09-019Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Exhibit, # 4 Exhibit)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 09/01/2015)
2015-09-0210NOTICE regarding motion for designation of coordinating judge by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 09/02/2015)
2015-09-0411NOTICE of ORDER in MISCELLANEOUS CASE NUMBER 15-1188 by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 09/04/2015)
2015-09-0712MOTION to Stay re 10 Notice (Other) pending resolution of motion for designation of coordinating judge by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 09/07/2015)
2015-09-2213Memorandum in opposition to re 12 MOTION to Stay re 10 Notice (Other) pending resolution of motion for designation of coordinating judge filed by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1, # 2 Exhibit 2, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 09/22/2015)
2015-10-08MINUTE ORDER (paperless). The Department of State's Motion for Designation of Coordinating Judge, filed in the miscellaneous action captioned In re: U.S. Department of State FOIA Litigation Regarding Emails of Certain Former Officials , has now been denied by Chief Judge Richard Roberts on behalf of the Judges of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, sitting in Executive Session. See Order, In re: U.S. Department of State FOIA Litigation Regarding Emails of Certain Former Officials , 15-cv-1188 (D.D.C. Oct. 8, 2015), ECF No. 41. Accordingly, Defendant's 12 Motion to Stay Pending Resolution of its Motion for Designation of Coordinating Judge is DENIED AS MOOT. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 10/8/2015. (lcckk2) (Entered: 10/08/2015)
2015-11-3014Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 11/30/2015)
2016-02-2915Joint STATUS REPORT by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC.. (Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 02/29/2016)
2016-02-29MINUTE ORDER: In light of the parties' 15 Joint Status Report, the parties shall meet and confer and file a Joint Status Report no later than APRIL 13, 2016, regarding further proceedings in this case. The parties shall include a proposed briefing schedule if appropriate. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 2/29/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 02/29/2016)
2016-02-29Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report and proposed briefing schedule due by 4/13/2016. (dot) (Entered: 03/01/2016)
2016-03-1616NOTICE of Appearance by Aimee Woodward Brown on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Brown, Aimee) (Entered: 03/16/2016)
2016-03-1617Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to Complete Production by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Brown, Aimee) (Entered: 03/16/2016)
2016-03-21MINUTE ORDER granting nunc pro tunc Defendant's 17 Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time in light of the disruption caused by the closure of the Washington Metrorail system on March 16, 2016. The deadline for Defendant's production of records is extended nunc pro tunc to March 17, 2016. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 3/21/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 03/21/2016)
2016-04-1318Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 04/13/2016)
2016-04-14MINUTE ORDER: Pursuant to the parties' 18 Joint Status Report in this FOIA action, the Court sets the following schedule for further proceedings that was requested by the parties. By no later than JUNE 8, 2016, Defendant shall provide to Plaintiff a draft Vaughn and search declaration; by no later than JUNE 20, 2016, Plaintiff shall inform Defendant if it is challenging the search, the withheld documents, or any redactions to produced documents. If the parties are able to resolve the matter informally, they shall promptly inform the Court. If the parties are not able to resolve this matter informally, they shall comply with the following briefing schedule: by no later than JULY 13, 2016, Defendant shall file its motion for summary judgment; by no later than AUGUST 10, 2016, Plaintiff shall file its opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment, or move for discovery pursuant to Rule 56(d), if appropriate; by no later than SEPTEMBER 7, 2016, Defendant shall file its opposition/reply brief; and by no later than SEPTEMBER 21, 2016, Plaintiff shall file its reply brief. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 4/14/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 04/14/2016)
2016-04-15Set/Reset Deadlines: By no later than 6/8/2016, Defendant shall provide to Plaintiff a draft Vaughn and search declaration; By no later than 6/20/2016, Plaintiff shall inform Defendant if it is challenging the search, the withheld documents, or any redactions to produced documents; By no later than 7/13/2016, Defendant shall file its motion for summary judgment; By no later than 8/10/2016, Plaintiff shall file its opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment, or move for discovery; By no later than 9/7/2016, Defendant shall file its opposition/reply brief; By no later than 9/21/2016, Plaintiff shall file its reply brief. (kt) (Entered: 04/15/2016)
2016-06-0719Unopposed MOTION to Modify Certain Timeframes in Minute Order by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 06/07/2016)
2016-06-07MINUTE ORDER granting Defendant's 19 Unopposed Motion To Modify Certain Timeframes Contained In Minute Order Dated April 14, 2016. Defendant shall provide Plaintiff its draft Vaughn index by no later than JUNE 21, 2016; and Plaintiff shall inform Defendant whether it will challenge the search and/or exemptions by no later than JUNE 30, 2016. The briefing schedule set in the Court's 4/14/2016 is unchanged. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 6/7/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 06/07/2016)
2016-06-2120Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to Provide Draft Vaughn by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 06/21/2016)
2016-06-24MINUTE ORDER granting nunc pro tunc Defendant's 20 Unopposed Motion for a One Day Extension to Produce Draft Vaughn to Plaintiff. The deadline to produce the draft Vaughn index or declaration is extended by one day, to June 22, 2016. All other deadlines previously set by the Court are unchanged. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 6/24/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 06/24/2016)
2016-07-1321MOTION for Summary Judgment by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Declaration and Index, # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 07/13/2016)
2016-08-0522Joint MOTION to Stay re Order,,,, for Summary Judgment Briefing by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 08/05/2016)
2016-08-08MINUTE ORDER granting the parties' 22 Joint Motion to Stay Briefing Schedule. In light of the events related in the Joint Motion, the briefing schedule previously set by the Court is VACATED. Defendant shall file a Status Report no later than SEPTEMBER 9, 2016, regarding the supplemental search and production. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 8/8/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 08/08/2016)
2016-08-08MINUTE ORDER denying WITHOUT PREJUDICE Defendant's 21 Motion for Summary Judgment. In light of the events reported by the parties in their 22 Motion to Stay Briefing Schedule, it is in the interest of judicial efficiency to deny without prejudice Defendant's 21 Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court will set a briefing schedule, if there remain issues to be resolved, after any supplemental production, and Defendants may at that time re-file their motion for summary judgment (updated as necessary). Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 8/8/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 08/08/2016)
2016-08-08Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant shall file a Status Report no later than 9/9/2016. (kt) (Entered: 08/08/2016)
2016-09-0923STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 09/09/2016)
2016-09-13MINUTE ORDER: In light of Defendant's 23 Status Report, the parties shall meet and confer and shall file on or before SEPTEMBER 23, 2016 a revised briefing schedule for summary judgment. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 9/13/16. (lcckk1) (Entered: 09/13/2016)
2016-09-13Set/Reset Deadlines: The parties shall meet and confer and shall file on or before 9/23/2016 a revised briefing schedule for summary judgment. (kt) (Entered: 09/13/2016)
2016-09-2324Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 09/23/2016)
2016-09-27MINUTE ORDER: In light of the parties' 24 Joint Status Report filed on September 23, 2016, the Court sets the following briefing schedule that was requested by the parties: By no later than October 21, 2016, Defendant shall file its Motion for Summary Judgment; by no later than November 22, 2016, Plaintiff shall file its combined Opposition brief and Cross-motion for Summary Judgment, or move for discovery pursuant to Rule 56(d), if appropriate; by no later than December 20, 2016, Defendant shall file its combined Reply in support of Summary Judgment and Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion or Motion for discovery; and by no later than January 13, 2017, Plaintiff shall file its Reply brief. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 9/27/16. (lcckk1) (Entered: 09/27/2016)
2016-09-27Set/Reset Deadlines: Plaintiff's Cross Motion due by 11/22/2016. Response to Cross Motions due by 12/20/2016. Reply to Cross Motions due by 1/13/2017. Defendant's Summary Judgment motion due by 10/21/2016. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 11/22/2016. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/20/2016. (dot) (Entered: 09/28/2016)
2016-10-2125MOTION for Summary Judgment by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Declaration, # 3 Statement of Facts, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 10/21/2016)
2016-11-1726Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 25 MOTION for Summary Judgment by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1 & 2, # 2 Text of Proposed Order)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 11/17/2016)
2016-11-17MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Plaintiff's 26 Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time and for good cause shown, it is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion shall be GRANTED and the briefing schedule previously set by the Court shall be VACATED; and it is FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall file a joint status report on or before DECEMBER 16, 2016, providing an update to the Court and either setting out a proposed amended schedule for further briefing regarding Defendant's 25 Motion for Summary Judgment and other remaining Rule 56 briefing deadlines or making further recommendations to the Court as to how the litigation in this matter should proceed. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 11/17/2016. (lcckk1) (Entered: 11/17/2016)
2016-12-1627Joint STATUS REPORT by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 12/16/2016)
2016-12-20MINUTE ORDER: The Court is in receipt of the parties' 27 Joint Status Report, and the Court sets the following briefing schedule that was requested by the parties: By no later than JANUARY 13, 2017, Plaintiff shall file its combined Opposition brief and Cross-motion for Summary Judgment, or move for discovery pursuant to Rule 56(d), if appropriate; by no later than FEBRUARY 6, 2017, Defendant shall file its combined Reply in support of Summary Judgment and Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion or Motion for discovery; and by no later than February 17, 2017, Plaintiff shall file its Reply brief. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 12/20/2016. (lcckk1) (Entered: 12/20/2016)
2017-01-1328Memorandum in opposition to re 25 MOTION for Summary Judgment with Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute filed by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Ramona R. Cotca (with exhibits), # 2 Text of Proposed Order)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 01/13/2017)
2017-01-1329Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment with Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Ramona R. Cotca (with exhibits), # 2 Text of Proposed Order)(Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 01/13/2017)
2017-02-0630REPLY to opposition to motion re 25 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 02/06/2017)
2017-02-0631RESPONSE re 29 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment with Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 02/06/2017)
2017-02-1732REPLY to opposition to motion re 29 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment with Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute filed by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC.. (Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 02/17/2017)
2017-09-2133ORDER GRANTING-IN-PART and DENYING-IN-PART WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's 29 Motion for Summary Judgment and DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE Defendant's 25 Motion for Summary Judgment. The thirteen documents listed in this Order shall be furnished to the Court, under seal and ex parte, for in camera review by NOVEMBER 6, 2017. To the extent Defendant continues to decline to search the additional materials allegedly recovered in October 2016, an affidavit addressing the agency's control of these materials shall likewise be furnished by NOVEMBER 6, 2017. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 9/21/2017. (lcckk3) (Entered: 09/21/2017)
2017-11-0634NOTICE of Submission of Documents for In Camera Review by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 11/06/2017)
2017-11-0635NOTICE of Filing of Requested Declaration by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Declaration)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 11/06/2017)
2018-01-1136ORDER. Upon review in camera of the documents submitted under seal and ex parte by Defendant, the Court now DENIES in full Plaintiff's 29 Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant shall file an affidavit addressing the topics set forth in Part II.B. of the accompanying Memorandum Opinion by JANUARY 25, 2018 . Thereafter, Plaintiff shall file a notice addressing the topics set forth in Part II.B. of the accompanying Memorandum Opinion by FEBRUARY 8, 2018 . Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on January 11, 2018. (lcckk1) (Entered: 01/11/2018)
2018-01-1137MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on January 11, 2018. (lcckk1) (Entered: 01/11/2018)
2018-01-1138ORDER. The Court has, today, January 11, 2018, lodged the documents referenced herein under seal and ex parte with the Clerk of the Court so that they are reviewable by Court personnel only. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on January 11, 2018. (lcckk1) (Entered: 01/11/2018)
2018-01-2539NOTICE of Filing of Requested Declaration by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE re 36 Order,, (Attachments: # 1 Declaration)(Edney, Marsha) (Entered: 01/25/2018)
2018-02-0840NOTICE by JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. (Cotca, Ramona) (Entered: 02/08/2018)
2018-02-09MINUTE ORDER: The Court has received Defendant's 39 notice and declaration, and Plaintiff's 40 notice, each of which was filed in response to this Court's 36 Order of January 11, 2018. Although it appears that Plaintiff has not fully addressed the Court's request on its merits, Plaintiff indicates that it "informed Defendant that it is potentially interested in a settlement agreement that would capture some of the pending cases against [Defendant], including the present action," and that the parties have engaged in "some preliminary discussions about the possibility of such a settlement." Plaintiff has requested 45 days for further discussions before submitting a Joint Status Report to the Court. While the Court has not solicited or received notice of Defendant's view, the Court does not have reason to believe that Defendant would be prejudiced by such a path forward. Accordingly, in the interest of efficient resolution of this matter, the Court hereby orders the parties to file a Joint Status Report by no later than MARCH 26, 2018 , regarding the progress of settlement discussions and indicating the parties' view as to whether further litigation is necessary. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on February 9, 2018. (lcckk1) (Entered: 02/09/2018)
2018-02-09Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 3/26/2018. (dot) (Entered: 02/09/2018)
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by FOIA Project Staff