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Case TitleCORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE v. AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2016cv00654
Date Filed2016-04-07
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Rosemary M. Collyer
PlaintiffCORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE
Case DescriptionThe Cornucopia Institute submitted a FOIA request to the Agricultural Marketing Service for records of investigations conducted by the National Organic Program of three named individuals. The agency located 119 pages. The agency disclosed 28 pages in full, 78 pages in part, and withheld 13 pages. The Cornucopia Institute filed an appeal, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Cornucopia Institute filed suit
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantAGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [18]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Rosemary Collyer has ruled that the Agricultural Marketing Service conducted an adequate search in response to a request from the Cornucopia Institute for records of the investigation of Diamond D Organics and that it properly withheld records under Exemption 5 (privileges) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). The Cornucopia Institute, a public interest farm policy organization, requested records concerning the investigation of Diamond D Organics after seeing references to it in records the Institute had previously received under FOIA. Matthew Michael, the Director of the Enforcement Division; and the specialist in charge of the investigation, searched their computer files for records concerning the investigation of Diamond D Organics. That search located 119 records. The agency disclosed 28 pages in full, 78 pages in part, and withheld 13 pages entirely. Cornucopia appealed the decision and the agency released additional information from nine pages. Michael and the specialist also conducted a second search of hard-copy records. They found an additional 21 pages that were released to Cornucopia with redactions. Cornucopia challenged the agency's description of the search. Collyer found the two affidavits filed by Michael were sufficient to explain the search. She noted that "Cornucopia's argument that the description of the second search is conclusory and vague because Mr. Michael failed to explain 'how they applied those two search terms,' cannot prevail because Cornucopia suggests no greater specificity needed to understand [the search] and none is required. Whether further records might exist is not the test to measure the adequacy of a search." Cornucopia suggested that the second search was conducted specifically because the first search was inadequate. But Collyer pointed out that "the fact that the second search identified further records does not invalidate either search." Finding that several records were properly withheld under the deliberative process privilege, Collyer turned to Cornucopia's claim that records withheld under Exemption 7(C) should be disclosed because they served a general public interest. She observed that "while the Court does not discount a general public interest in full disclosure, that general interest is insufficient to allow the release of identities and personal information of third-party individuals named in the files of the [Diamond D Organics] investigation. This Circuit places a strong priority on maintaining individual privacy rights, unless certain kinds of agency misconduct requires their relaxation. Cornucopia fails to grapple with this precedent and fails to specify anything more than the public's general interest. This does not suffice." She upheld the agency's Exemption 7(C) claims as well.
Issues: Adequacy - Search, Exemption 5 - Privileges, Exemption 7(C) - Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2016-04-071COMPLAINT against AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-4476249) filed by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 04/07/2016)
2016-04-07Case Assigned to Judge Rosemary M. Collyer. (jd) (Entered: 04/07/2016)
2016-04-07SUMMONS Not Issued as to AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE (SUMMONS NOT FILED WITH COMPLAINT) (jd) (Entered: 04/07/2016)
2016-04-072REQUEST FOR SUMMONS TO ISSUE filed by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE.(Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 04/07/2016)
2016-04-083SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Consent Forms)(zrdj) (Entered: 04/08/2016)
2016-04-214NOTICE of Appearance by Jason Todd Cohen on behalf of AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE (Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 04/21/2016)
2016-05-025Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 05/02/2016)
2016-05-02MINUTE ORDER granting 5 Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time. Defendant shall respond to the Complaint no later than June 17, 2016 . Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 5/2/2016. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 05/02/2016)
2016-05-02Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Answer to Complaint due by 6/17/2016. (cdw) (Entered: 05/02/2016)
2016-06-026NOTICE of Appearance by C. Peter Sorenson on behalf of CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE (Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 06/02/2016)
2016-06-177ANSWER to Complaint by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE.(Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 06/17/2016)
2016-06-20MINUTE ORDER requiring the parties to file a joint proposed briefing schedule on dispositive motions no later than July 5, 2016 . Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 6/20/2016. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 06/20/2016)
2016-07-018PROPOSED BRIEFING SCHEDULE (Joint) by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE. (Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 07/01/2016)
2016-07-01MINUTE ORDER approving 8 Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule. Defendant shall file a Motion for Summary Judgment no later than September 2, 2016 ; Plaintiff shall file a Combined Cross-Motion/Opposition no later than October 3, 2016 ; Defendant shall file a Combined Reply/Opposition no later than November 14, 2016 ; and Plaintiff shall file a Reply brief no later than December 13, 2016 . Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 7/1/2016. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 07/01/2016)
2016-07-01Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Defendant's Summary Judgment motion due by 9/2/2016. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 10/3/2016. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 11/14/2016. Plaintiff's Cross Motion due by 10/3/2016. Response to Cross Motion due by 11/14/2016. Reply to Cross Motion due by 12/13/2016. (cdw) (Entered: 07/01/2016)
2016-09-029MOTION for Summary Judgment by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Matthew Michael, # 2 Attachment A to Michael Decl., # 3 Attachment B to Michael Decl., # 4 Attachment C to Michael Decl., # 5 Attachment D to Michael Decl., # 6 Attachment E to Michael Decl., # 7 Attachment F to Michael Decl., # 8 Attachment G to Michael Decl., AMS Vaughn Index, # 9 Proposed Order)(Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 09/02/2016)
2016-10-0310MOTION for Summary Judgment by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Declaration of Mark A. Kastel, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 10/03/2016)
2016-10-0311Memorandum in opposition to re 9 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Declaration of Mark Kastel, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 10/03/2016)
2016-10-1912Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to Extend Briefing Schedule by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Sorenson, C.) (Entered: 10/19/2016)
2016-10-19MINUTE ORDER granting 12 Joint Motion for Extension of Time. Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross Motion and Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Cross Motion are now due on December 1, 2016. Plaintiff's Reply to Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross Motion is now due on December 29th, 2016. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 10/19/2016. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 10/19/2016)
2016-10-19Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Defendant's reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/1/2016. Defendant's response to Cross Motion due by 12/1/2016. Plaintiff's reply to Cross Motion due by 12/29/2016. (cdw) (Entered: 10/21/2016)
2016-11-2213Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 10 MOTION for Summary Judgment , 9 MOTION for Summary Judgment by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 11/22/2016)
2016-11-23MINUTE ORDER granting 13 Consent Motion for Extension of Time. Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross Motion and Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Cross Motion are now due on December 9, 2016. Plaintiff's Reply to Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross Motion is now due on January 9, 2017. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 11/23/2016. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 11/23/2016)
2016-11-23Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/9/2016. Response to Cross Motion due by 12/9/2016. Reply to Cross Motion due by 1/9/2017. (cdw) (Entered: 11/23/2016)
2016-12-0914REPLY to opposition to motion re 9 MOTION for Summary Judgment and Oppositon to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment filed by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE. (Attachments: # 1 Second Declaration of Mathew Michael)(Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 12/09/2016)
2016-12-0915Memorandum in opposition to re 10 MOTION for Summary Judgment (See ECF No. 14 and 14-1) filed by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE. (Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 12/09/2016)
2017-01-0316Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 01/03/2017)
2017-01-04MINUTE ORDER granting 16 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply. Plaintiff shall file its reply on or before January 23, 2017. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 1/4/2017. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 01/04/2017)
2017-01-2317REPLY to opposition to motion re 10 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE. (Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 01/23/2017)
2017-08-1618MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 8/16/2017. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 08/16/2017)
2017-08-1619ORDER granting Defendant's 9 Motion for Summary Judgment and denying Plaintiff's 10 Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. Judgment is entered in favor of Defendant on all counts. This case is closed. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 8/16/2017. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 08/16/2017)
2017-08-2220Consent MOTION to Stay per LCvR 54.2(a) by CORNUCOPIA INSTITUTE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Stotter, Daniel) (Entered: 08/22/2017)
2017-08-25MINUTE ORDER granting 20 Motion to Stay. This case shall be stayed until October 24, 2017. On or before October 24, 2017, parties shall jointly submit a status report concerning status of negotiations regarding fees that includes, if necessary, a proposed briefing schedule. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 8/25/2017. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 08/25/2017)
2017-09-2621STIPULATION of Settlement and Dismissal by AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE. (Cohen, Jason) (Entered: 09/26/2017)
2017-09-26MINUTE ORDER adopting Parties' Stipulation of Settlement and Dismissal. All remaining issues in this litigation are hereby dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 9/26/2017. (lcrmc1) (Entered: 09/26/2017)
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by FOIA Project Staff