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Case TitleRojas v. Federal Aviation Administration
DistrictDistrict of Arizona
CityPhoenix Division
Case Number2:2015cv01985
Date Filed2015-10-05
Date Closed2016-11-16
JudgeSenior Judge Neil V Wake
PlaintiffJorge Alejandro Rojas
Case DescriptionJorge Alexandro Rojas submitted a FOIA request to the FAA for emails related to an alleged cheating scandal at the agency. After substantial back and forth, the agency still had not processed Rojas' request. He also filed a FOIA request for a flow analysis concerning job applicants for a certain job. He requested a fee waiver, which the agency denied. Rojas appealed the denial of the fee waiver, but heard nothing further concerning the status of his appeal. He filed a third FOIA request for an applicant information summary screen for applicants for a certain position. He requested a fee waiver for this request as well, which, again, was denied. He filed an appeal of that denial, but heard nothing more from the agency. Rojas finally filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantFederal Aviation Administration
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [31]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in Arizona has ruled the Jorge Rojas is not entitled to attorney's fees for his litigation against the FAA because he did not substantially prevail. Rojas submitted three FOIA requests for records concerning changes the agency had made in a policy allowing Arizona State University to grant degrees that made recipients eligible under the FAA's Collegiate Training Initiative. The agency told Rojas that costs for his first request would exceed $50 and that the agency would not take further steps to process it unless he committed to paying fees. Rojas filed suit on October 5, 2015 and the agency responded to Rojas' request October 29, 2015. The court noted that although it had previously denied Rojas' motion for attorney's fees based on the Buckhannon standard he now contended the court had failed to consider whether he was entitled to fees under the catalyst theory. The court faulted Rojas for failing to inform the court that FOIA's attorney's fees provision had been amended, indicating that "the Court's initial decision to deny fees was the correct application of the Buckhannon standard. Nevertheless, it is in this Court's discretion to reconsider the award of attorney's fees under the catalyst theory." Rejecting Rojas' claim under the catalyst theory as well, the court pointed out that "this Court has no doubt that Rojas' lawsuit did not catalyze the production of documents. The documents were produced only one day after the FAA received service of the lawsuit. What triggered the release was not the law suit but rather the Request making its way through the regular FOIA process." The court added that "the time it took to respond to Rojas was not because the FAA had failed to conduct the necessary research but rather because the FAA was working to fulfill the large request." Assessing the factors for entitlement to an award, the court found they favored the government. On the issue of whether Rojas had a commercial interest in the request, the court noted that "while there was commercial element to Rojas' future employability he was not solely motivated by this interest and had an interest in disseminating the information to the public."
Issues: Litigation - Attorney's fees - Eligibility - Causal effect, Litigation - Attorney's fees - Entitlement - Commercial interest
User-contributed Documents
 Agency Answer to Complaint
Notice of Related Case
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2015-10-051COMPLAINT. Filing fee received: $ 400.00, receipt number PHX163488 filed by Jorge Alejandro Rojas. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibits)(HLA) (Entered: 10/06/2015)
2015-10-052NOTICE re: Related Case by Jorge Alejandro Rojas. (HLA) (Entered: 10/06/2015)
2015-10-053REQUEST BY NON-PRISONER PRO SE PARTY FOR ELECTRONIC NOTICING filed by Jorge Alejandro Rojas. Pro se parties must promptly notify the Clerks Office, in writing, if there is a change in designated e-mail address or mailing address. (HLA) (Entered: 10/06/2015)
2015-10-054Filing fee paid, receipt number PHX163488. This case has been assigned to the Honorable Neil V Wake. All future pleadings or documents should bear the correct case number: CV-15-1985-PHX-NVW. Notice of Availability of Magistrate Judge to Exercise Jurisdiction form attached. (HLA) (Entered: 10/06/2015)
2015-10-05Summons Issued in person at Customer Service Intake Counter as to Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General on 10/05/2015. (HLA) This is a TEXT ENTRY ONLY. There is no PDF document associated with this entry. (Entered: 10/06/2015)
2015-10-075SCHEDULING ORDER: Defendant shall serve an answer or otherwise plead within sixty (60) days after service, unless the Court otherwise directs for good cause shown. FURTHER ORDERED that the deadline for filing dispositive motions is six (6) months from the date the case is filed. Failure to file such a motion shall result in dismissal for lack of prosecution. FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall serve Defendant with a copy of this Order. Signed by Judge Neil V. Wake on 10/6/15. (NKS) (Entered: 10/07/2015)
2015-10-076ORDER that motions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and 12(c) are discouraged if the defect can be cured by filing an amended pleading. Therefore, the parties must meet and confer prior to the filing of such motions to determine whether it can be avoided. FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff serve a copy of this Order upon Defendant and file notice of service. See order for details. Signed by Judge Neil V. Wake on 10/7/15. (NKS) (Entered: 10/07/2015)
2015-11-107SERVICE EXECUTED filed by Jorge Alejandro Rojas: Proof of Service re: Summons, Complaint (with Exhibits), and Notice of Related Case upon U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona (via Civil Process Clerk) on 10/14/2015, U.S. Attorney General on 10/16/2015, and the Federal Aviation Administration on 10/15/2015. (REK) (Entered: 11/10/2015)
2015-12-148ANSWER to 1 Complaint by Federal Aviation Administration. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Bullis, Paul) (Entered: 12/14/2015)
2015-12-149Additional Attachments to Main Document re: 8 Answer to Complaint (Exhibit) by Defendant Federal Aviation Administration. (Bullis, Paul) (Entered: 12/14/2015)
2016-01-2710NOTICE of Appearance by Michael William Pearson on behalf of Jorge Alejandro Rojas. (Pearson, Michael) (Entered: 01/27/2016)
2016-03-3111MOTION for Extension of Time to File Dispositive Motions by Federal Aviation Administration. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Bullis, Paul) (Entered: 03/31/2016)
2016-04-0112ORDER: The Court having reviewed the Defendant's Stipulated Motion for Extension of Time to File Dispositive Motions (Doc. 11 ), ORDERED granting the Motion. FURTHER ORDERED extending the deadline for the filing of dispositive motions to Thursday, May 5, 2016. This is a TEXT ENTRY ONLY. There is no PDF document associated with this entry. (NKS) (Entered: 04/01/2016)
2016-05-0513MOTION for Summary Judgment by Federal Aviation Administration. (Bullis, Paul) (Entered: 05/05/2016)
2016-05-0514STATEMENT OF FACTS by Defendant Federal Aviation Administration. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Index, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Exhibit)(Bullis, Paul) (Entered: 05/05/2016)
2016-06-0315RESPONSE to Motion re: 13 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Jorge Alejandro Rojas. (Pearson, Michael) (Entered: 06/03/2016)
2016-06-0316STATEMENT OF FACTS re: 15 Response to Motion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff Jorge Alejandro Rojas. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Exhibits Pt 1 of 4, # 2 Exhibit Exhibits Pt 2 of 4, # 3 Exhibit Exhibits Pt 3 of 4, # 4 Exhibit Exhibits Pt 4 of 4)(Pearson, Michael) (Entered: 06/03/2016)
2016-06-2117REPLY to Response to Motion re: 13 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Federal Aviation Administration. (Bullis, Paul) (Entered: 06/21/2016)
2016-09-2018ORDER: IT IS ORDERED setting oral argument re: 13 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Federal Aviation Administration for 10/5/2016 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 504, 401 West Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85003 before Senior Judge Neil V. Wake. Ordered by Senior Judge Neil V Wake. (NVW, vg)(This is a TEXT ENTRY ONLY. There is no PDF document associated with this entry.) (Entered: 09/20/2016)
2016-10-0519MINUTE ENTRY for proceedings held before Senior Judge Neil V. Wake: Oral Argument held on 10/05/16. Counsel argue their respective positions regarding the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13 ). By no later than 10/19/16, the Court orders the Defendant to file a statement whether it has pre-existing documents that fairly describe the analysis of primary data that the government has always understood the request to be seeking. Motion taken under advisement. Order to follow. APPEARANCES: Michael W. Pearson for Plaintiff. AUSA Paul A. Bullis for Defendant. (Court Reporter Laurie Adams.) Hearing held 10:11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. This is a TEXT ENTRY ONLY. There is no PDF document associated with this entry. (NKS) (Entered: 10/05/2016)
2016-10-1920*STATEMENT re: Defendant's Statement Regarding Pre-Existing Documents by Defendant Federal Aviation Administration. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Bullis, Paul) *Modified to correct event on 10/20/2016 (REK). (Entered: 10/19/2016)
2016-11-1621ORDER - IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the FAA's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13 ) is granted. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's claim concerning Freedom of Information Act Request 8224 is dismissed as moot, having been settled by the parties. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk enter Judgment in favor of Defendant Federal Aviation Administration against Plaintiff Jorge Alejandro Rojas and that Plaintiff take nothing. The Clerk shall terminate this case. (See document for further details). Signed by Senior Judge Neil V Wake on 11/15/16. (LAD) (Entered: 11/16/2016)
2016-11-1622CLERK'S JUDGMENT - IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that, pursuant to the Court's Order filed November 16, 2016, which granted the Motion for Summary Judgment, judgment is entered in favor of defendant and against plaintiff. Plaintiff to take nothing, and the complaint and action are hereby dismissed. (LAD) (Entered: 11/16/2016)
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by FOIA Project Staff