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Case TitleLANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2015cv01698
Date Filed2015-10-16
Date Closed2016-10-14
JudgeJudge Tanya S. Chutkan
PlaintiffLANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION
Case DescriptionLandmark Legal Foundation submitted two FOIA requests to the Department of Justice. The first request was submitted to the Office of Information Policy for records concerning the use of personal email accounts by senior DOJ officials to conduct public business. The second FOIA request asked for records concerning the creation and maintenance of any alias email accounts for senior DOJ officials. The agency did not respond to Landmark's alias request or Landmark's appeal of the delay. DOJ responded to the request for personal emails by indicating that it had no records. Landmark appealed to OIP, which concluded that the agency could not conduct a search for personal emails. Landmark then filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Complaint attachment 6
Opinion/Order [12]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Tanya Chutkan has ruled that the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy and Civil Rights Division properly concluded that a request from Landmark Legal Foundation for records reflecting the use of personal email accounts to conduct government business does not sufficiently describe records subject to a search. OIP told Landmark that it could not search for the records requested and Civil Rights told Landmark that the request did not describe agency records. Chutkan noted that "the Plaintiff's request for 'records evincing the use of' personal email accounts and other electronic communication and social median platforms to conduct government business does not enable a professional DOJ employee to determine what records are being sought. Plaintiff does not define 'evince,' nor explain how a record can 'evince' the use of personal email or social media accounts. Plaintiff's request does not ask for specific records, but rather for any records that might suggest that other records exist. While the object of Plaintiff's requests may be to determine whether Department of Justice employees are using personal email accounts to conduct government business, Plaintiff cannot force the Department to answer that question through a FOIA request." She added that "Plaintiff may want a list of DOJ employees who use personal email for Department business, but FOIA only entitles it to such a list if the Department already has one‚Ä"it does not require the Department to create one." Landmark argued that it was only requesting the Department to ask the employees whether they had conducted public business on their personal email accounts, search those accounts, and provide the results to the Department. Chutkan found such a search impractical. She observed that "an employee cannot search their personal email for 'instances in which I used my personal email to conduct government business'‚Ä"such a search would not only be difficult to formulate, but would also likely not uncover responsive records‚Ä"rather, they would need a concrete and specific search term." Landmark claimed OIP had misunderstood its request and had improperly narrowed it. But Chutkan pointed out that "ultimately, regardless of whether Defendant misunderstood Plaintiff's intent in narrowing the scope of the search, Plaintiff has not made a request that adequately describes the records sought. Plaintiff's 'good faith effort' cannot convert an invalid and unreasonable request into a valid and reasonable one."
Issues: Request - Specificity
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2015-10-161COMPLAINT against U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-4280234) filed by LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Exhibit 1, # 2 Exhibit Exhibit 2, # 3 Civil Cover Sheet, # 4 Summons Summons Dept. of Justice, # 5 Summons Summons U.S. Atty, # 6 Summons Summons U.S. AG)(O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 10/16/2015)
2015-10-162LCvR 7.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION (O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 10/16/2015)
2015-10-16Case Assigned to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan. (md) (Entered: 10/19/2015)
2015-10-203SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Consent Forms)(zrdj) (Entered: 10/20/2015)
2015-10-274RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE served on 10/23/2015, RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 10/23/2015., RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 10/26/2015. ( Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 11/25/2015.) (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Exhibit)(O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 10/27/2015)
2015-11-275NOTICE of Appearance by Kevin Matthew Snell on behalf of All Defendants (Snell, Kevin) (Entered: 11/27/2015)
2015-11-276First MOTION to Dismiss in Part by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Personal Email FOIA Request, # 2 Exhibit Civil Rights Division First Response, # 3 Exhibit OIP Response, # 4 Exhibit Plaintiff First Appeal of Civil Rights Division Response, # 5 Exhibit First Appeal Decision for Civil Rights Division, # 6 Exhibit Civil Rights Division Second Response, # 7 Exhibit Plaintiff Second Appeal of Civil Rights Division Response, # 8 Exhibit OIP Second Appeal Decision for Civil Rights Division, # 9 Exhibit Appeal of OIP Response, # 10 Exhibit OIP Appeal Decision for ODAG, # 11 Exhibit OIP Appeal Decision for OAG, # 12 Exhibit Alias Email Request, # 13 Exhibit Civil Divisions Response to Alias Email Request, # 14 Text of Proposed Order)(Snell, Kevin) (Entered: 11/27/2015)
2015-12-097Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 6 First MOTION to Dismiss in Part by LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 12/09/2015)
2015-12-10MINUTE ORDER: Granting 7 Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss 6 due December 18, 2015. Defendant's Reply due January 15, 2016. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 12/10/15. (DJS) (Entered: 12/10/2015)
2015-12-188Memorandum in opposition to re 6 First MOTION to Dismiss in Part filed by LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order, # 2 Exhibit Exhibit 1)(O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 12/18/2015)
2016-01-159REPLY to opposition to motion re 6 First MOTION to Dismiss in Part filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Snell, Kevin) (Entered: 01/15/2016)
2016-07-0710NOTICE OF SUPPLEMENTAL AUTHORITY by LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 07/07/2016)
2016-07-1411RESPONSE re 10 NOTICE OF SUPPLEMENTAL AUTHORITY filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Snell, Kevin) (Entered: 07/14/2016)
2016-09-3012MEMORANDUM AND OPINION: Re Defendant's 6 Motion to Dismiss in Part. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 9/30/2016. (lctsc3) (Entered: 09/30/2016)
2016-09-3013ORDER granting Defendant's 6 Motion to Dismiss in Part. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 9/30/2016. (lctsc3) (Entered: 09/30/2016)
2016-10-03MINUTR ORDER: Parties are to file a joint status report and proposed briefing schedule and order on or before 10/17/2016. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 10/3/2016. (lctsc3) Modified on 10/3/2016 (zsm). (Entered: 10/03/2016)
2016-10-03Set/Reset Deadlines: Proposed Briefing Schedule and Status Report due by 10/17/2016 (zsm) (Entered: 10/03/2016)
2016-10-1314Joint STATUS REPORT by LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION. (O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 10/13/2016)
2016-10-1315NOTICE of Voluntary Dismissal by LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION (O'Neill, Michael) (Entered: 10/13/2016)
2016-10-14MINUTE ORDER OF DISMISSAL: In light of Notice of Dismissal filed by the Plaintiff 15 , this action is hereby dismissed with prejudice. Each party to bear its own costs and fees. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 10/14/16. (DJS) Modified event title on 10/17/2016 (znmw). (Entered: 10/14/2016)
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