Skip to content

Case Detail

[Subscribe to updates]
Case TitleCOFFEY v. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2016cv00508
Date Filed2016-03-17
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge James E. Boasberg
PlaintiffDEBBIE COFFEY
Case DescriptionDebbie Coffey submitted a FOIA request to the Bureau of Land Management for records about the Wild Horse and Burro Program, particularly long-term contracts. The agency acknowledged receipt of Coffey's request, denied her request for a fee waiver, and told her the estimated cost of her request would be $1,680, which Coffey agreed to pay. Coffey sent a check to the agency. The agency indicated that her request was being processed, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Coffey filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Opinion/Order [22]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge James Boasberg has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management has not yet shown that it conducted an adequate search for records of conversations BLM employees Lili Thomas and Beatrice Wade had with contractors operating long-term holding facilities for wild horses and burros. After researching the agency's wild horse and burro program, Debbie Coffey sent the agency a FOIA request specifically for communications between contractors and Thomas or Wade. She told the agency that the records were located in the BLM's Environmental Assessment prepared for each long-term holding facility and supplied a list of locations for 24 current long-term holding facilities in city-state format. Coffey explained that she was not looking for inter- or intra-agency records. She also requested a fee waiver. The agency denied her fee waiver request and told her instead that the estimated cost of processing her request was $1,680. She paid the fee, but the agency subsequently refunded the fee because it had failed to respond within the statutory deadline. In its response, the agency disclosed 514 pages, only three pages of which were responsive to Coffey's request. Because of an employee's error in processing the request, the remaining pages consisted of inter- or intra-agency records which Coffey had not requested. Although the agency refunded the entire amount of the estimated fee, Coffey argued it was responsible for $6.81 in interest as well. The agency argued that "FOIA does not expressly waive the government's sovereign immunity with respect to interest." Boasberg agreed, pointing out that "although Coffey's concerns about the length of time that BLM retained her processing fees are understandable, the Court concludes that the no-interest rule forecloses her argument here." While Boasberg found the agency had reasonably explained its decision to limit its search to the Wild Horse and Burro Office, he faulted the agency for narrowing its search by restricting it to communications only with contractors. He also found the agency's insistence on using the city-state identifiers supplied by Coffey limited the number of potentially responsive records as well. He indicated that "the Court is hard pressed to conclude that location search terms encompassing both city and state‚Ä"and thus excluding records containing only the city or state of each facility‚Ä"would be reasonably calculated to accomplish the task." He agreed with Coffey that searching the email addresses of the facilities would likely locate responsive communications. However, he pointed out that "after conducting another search with different terms, BLM might well explain in a renewed motion for summary judgment why its omission of Plaintiff's preferred keywords and inclusion of others was reasonable under the circumstances; perhaps, for example, they are not all as readily available as the Court presently infers. In addition, if Defendant reasonably believes that searching with email addresses would be likely to uncover all responsive correspondence between the individuals and BLM, if would not need to additionally search for the individuals' and facilities' names. At this juncture, however, the Court cannot conclude that a search using neither names nor email addresses, and instead using the facilities' locations and contracting-related terms, is adequate to pass muster under FOIA's standard of reasonableness."
Issues: Adequacy - Search
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2016-03-171COMPLAINT against BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-4449962) filed by DEBBIE COFFEY. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons, # 3 Summons, # 4 Summons)(Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 03/17/2016)
2016-03-17Case Assigned to Judge James E. Boasberg. (md) (Entered: 03/17/2016)
2016-03-172SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Notice of Consent) (md) (Entered: 03/17/2016)
2016-04-223NOTICE of Appearance by Claire M. Whitaker on behalf of BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 04/22/2016)
2016-05-024AMENDED COMPLAINT against BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT filed by DEBBIE COFFEY.(Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 05/02/2016)
2016-05-025Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer to June 4, 2016 by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 05/02/2016)
2016-05-02MINUTE ORDER granting Defendant's 5 Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Answer. The Court ORDERS that Defendant shall file its answer or other responsive pleading by no later than June 3, 2016. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 05/02/2016. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 05/02/2016)
2016-05-03Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Answer or other responsive pleading due by 6/3/2016. (tg) (Entered: 05/03/2016)
2016-06-026NOTICE of Appearance by Daniel J. Stotter on behalf of DEBBIE COFFEY (Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 06/02/2016)
2016-06-037ANSWER to 4 Amended Complaint by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. Related document: 4 Amended Complaint filed by DEBBIE COFFEY.(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 06/03/2016)
2016-06-06MINUTE ORDER: The Court ORDERS that the parties shall meet, confer, and submit a briefing schedule to the Court by June 20, 2016. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 06/06/2016. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 06/06/2016)
2016-06-06Set/Reset Deadline: The parties shall meet, confer, and submit a briefing schedule to the Court by 6/20/2016. (ad) (Entered: 06/06/2016)
2016-06-068ERRATA (ECF No. 7, filed on June 3, 2016, should have been the attached ":Answer to Amended Complaint") by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. (Attachments: # 1 Answer to Amended Complaint)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 06/06/2016)
2016-06-099RESPONSE TO ORDER OF THE COURT re Order (Joint Report) filed by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 06/09/2016)
2016-06-10MINUTE ORDER: The Court ADOPTS the Parties' Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule and ORDERS that 1) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than September 9, 2016; 2) Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than October 7, 2016; 3) Defendant's Opposition and Reply shall be filed by no later than October 28, 2016; and 4) Plaintiff's Reply shall be filed by no later than November 18, 2016. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 06/10/2016. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 06/10/2016)
2016-06-10Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motion due by 9/9/2016; Cross-Motion/Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 10/7/2016; Opposition to Cross-Motion/Reply to Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 10/28/2016; Reply to Opposition to Cross Motion due by 11/18/2016. (tg) (Entered: 06/10/2016)
2016-09-0710MOTION for Extension of Time to /for briefing schedule by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 09/07/2016)
2016-09-07MINUTE ORDER: If Plaintiff opposes Defendant's 10 Motion, the Court ORDERS that she shall file an opposition by September 9, 2016, explaining her position. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 9/7/16. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 09/07/2016)
2016-09-08Set/Reset Deadline: If Plaintiff opposes Defendant's 10 Motion, the Court ORDERS that she shall file an opposition by 9/09/2016, explaining her position. (ad) (Entered: 09/08/2016)
2016-09-12MINUTE ORDER granting 10 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that 1) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than September 30, 2016; 2) Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than October 28, 2016; 3) Defendant's Opposition and Reply shall be filed by no later than November 18, 2016; and 4) Plaintiff's Reply shall be filed by no later than December 16, 2016. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 9/12/16. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 09/12/2016)
2016-09-12Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than 9/30/2016; Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than 10/28/2016; Defendant's Opposition and Reply shall be filed by no later than 11/18/2016; and Plaintiff's Reply shall be filed by no later than 12/16/2016. (ad) (Entered: 09/12/2016)
2016-09-3011Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to Extend Briefing Schedule by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 09/30/2016)
2016-10-03MINUTE ORDER granting Joint 11 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that 1) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than October 14, 2016; 2) Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than November 11, 2016; 3) Defendant's Opposition and Reply shall be filed by no later than December 2, 2016; and 4) Plaintiff's Reply shall be filed by no later than January 6, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 10/3/16. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 10/03/2016)
2016-10-03Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than 10/14/2016; Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than 11/11/2016; Defendant's Opposition and Reply shall be filed by no later than 12/02/2016; and Plaintiff's Reply shall be filed by no later than 1/06/2017. (ad) (Entered: 10/03/2016)
2016-10-1412Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to Extend Briefing Schedule by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 10/14/2016)
2016-10-17MINUTE ORDER granting 12 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that 1) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than October 24, 2016; 2) Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed by no later than December 5, 2016; 3) Defendant's Opposition and Reply shall be filed by no later than December 28, 2016; and 4) Plaintiff's Reply shall be filed by no later than January 13, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 10/17/16. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 10/17/2016)
2016-10-17Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Summary Judgment motion due by 10/24/2016; Plaintiff's Cross-Motion/Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/5/2016; Defendant's Opposition to Cross-Motion/Reply to Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/28/2016; Plaintiff's Reply to Opposition to Cross Motion due by 1/13/2017. (tg) (Entered: 10/17/2016)
2016-10-2413MOTION for Summary Judgment by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Declaration Witt Decl. with Exhibits A-D, # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 10/24/2016)
2016-12-0514Memorandum in opposition to re 13 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by DEBBIE COFFEY. (Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 12/05/2016)
2016-12-0515MOTION for Summary Judgment by DEBBIE COFFEY (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 12/05/2016)
2016-12-2816Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 12/28/2016)
2016-12-29MINUTE ORDER granting 16 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that: 1) Defendant shall file its Reply/Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment on or before January 18,2017; and 2) Plaintiff shall file its Reply to Defendant's Opposition on or before February 6, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 12/29/2016. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 12/29/2016)
2016-12-29Set/Reset Deadlines: Responses due by 1/18/2017 Replies due by 2/6/2017. (nbn) (Entered: 12/29/2016)
2017-01-1817Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to Extend Briefing Schedule by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 01/18/2017)
2017-01-18MINUTE ORDER granting Consent 17 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that: 1) Defendant shall file its Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition and its Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on or before January 27, 2017; and 2) Plaintiff shall file her Reply to Defendant's Opposition on or before February 17, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 1/18/17. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 01/18/2017)
2017-01-18Set/Reset Deadlines: Response to Dispositive Motions due by 1/27/2017. Reply to Dispositive Motions due by 2/17/2017. (zlsj) (Entered: 01/18/2017)
2017-01-2718Memorandum in opposition to re 15 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. (Attachments: # 1 Attachment 1 (Declaration of Ryan Witt with exhibit), # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 01/27/2017)
2017-01-2719REPLY to opposition to motion re 13 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. (Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 01/27/2017)
2017-02-1720REPLY to opposition to motion re 13 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by DEBBIE COFFEY. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Declaration, # 3 Declaration, # 4 Declaration)(Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 02/17/2017)
2017-04-2021ORDER GRANTING IN PART and DENYING IN PART Defendant's 13 Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANTING IN PART and DENYING IN PART Plaintiff's 15 Motion for Summary Judgment. The parties shall submit a joint status report that includes a proposal for a schedule going forward by May 4, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 4/20/17. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 04/20/2017)
2017-04-2022Memorandum Opinion re 21 Order on Motions for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 4/20/17. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 04/20/2017)
2017-04-20Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 5/4/2017. (nbn) (Entered: 04/20/2017)
2017-05-0423Joint STATUS REPORT by DEBBIE COFFEY. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 05/04/2017)
2017-05-05MINUTE ORDER: Per the 23 Joint Status Report, (1) Defendant shall conduct a new search and release any non-exempt responsive records on or before June 28, 2017, (2) Defendant shall submit to Plaintiff any declaration describing that search on or before July 6, 2017, (3) Plaintiff shall review the releases on or before July 20, 2017, and (4) the parties shall submit a further Joint Status Report indicating that the case has been resolved or proposing a further briefing schedule on or before August 3, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 5/5/17. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 05/05/2017)
2017-05-05Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant shall conduct a new search and release any non-exempt responsive records 6/28/2017. Defendant shall submit to Plaintiff any declaration describing that search due by 7/6/2017. Plaintiff shall review the releases by 7/20/2017. Joint Status Report due by 8/3/2017. (nbn) (Entered: 05/05/2017)
2017-06-2824Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to revise schedule governing further proceedings by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Text of Proposed Order)(Whitaker, Claire) (Entered: 06/28/2017)
2017-06-29MINUTE ORDER GRANTING Consent 24 Motion for Extend Schedule. The Court ORDERS that: (1) Defendant shall conduct a new search and release any non-exempt responsive records on or before July 26, 2017, (2) Defendant shall submit to Plaintiff any declaration describing that search on or before August 3, 2017, (3) Plaintiff shall review the releases on or before August 10, 2017, and (4) the parties shall submit a further Joint Status Report indicating that the case has been resolved or proposing a further briefing schedule on or before August 24, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 6/29/17. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 06/29/2017)
2017-06-29Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 8/24/2017. (nbn) (Entered: 07/06/2017)
2017-08-2425Joint STATUS REPORT by DEBBIE COFFEY. (Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 08/24/2017)
2017-08-24MINUTE ORDER ADOPTING 25 Joint Status Report. The Court ORDERS that on or before September 28, 2017, parties shall submit a Joint Status Report indicating if the issues in the case are fully resolved, or providing a proposed further briefing schedule to the Court. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 8/24/2017. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 08/24/2017)
2017-08-25Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 9/28/2017 (zlsj) (Entered: 08/25/2017)
Hide Docket Events
by FOIA Project Staff