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Case TitleFREEDOM WATCH, INC. v. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT et al
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2016cv00992
Date Filed2016-05-25
Date Closed2016-11-23
JudgeJudge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
PlaintiffFREEDOM WATCH, INC.
Case DescriptionFreedom Watch submitted FOIA requests to the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Justice for records concerning a confrontation between government agents and rancher Cliven Bundy in Clark County, Nevada. Freedom Watch requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. After hearing nothing from either agency, Freedom Watch filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
DefendantDEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DefendantFEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Opinion/Order [16]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has ruled that Freedom Watch has not shown that its FOIA requests concerning the 2014 confrontation in Clark County, Nevada between Bureau of Land Management agents and supporters of Cliven Bundy were received by the Bureau Land Management, the Department of Justice, or the FBI. Freedom Watch claimed it faxed its requests to the three agencies, but after Freedom Watch filed suit, the agencies indicated that none of them had a record of receiving the requests. Kollar-Kotelly noted that "as a matter of law, however, the sending of a FOIA request is not the salient action that initiates a request and imposes obligations on the agencies from which documents are being requested. Rather, the receipt of a request by the agency is the legally significant event that triggers the commencement of the FOIA request and that enables a requester, such as Plaintiff, who is dissatisfied with the agency response, to seek recourse from federal courts. Federal court jurisdiction over a FOIA claim is dependent upon a showing that an agency improperly withheld records." Both FBI and BLM provided declarations explaining their procedures for receiving requests and indicating that neither agency had received Freedom Watch's request. Freedom Watch suggested the agencies were lying because of the political controversy involved. Kollar-Kotelly observed that "plaintiff's conjecture, however, is inadequate to overcome the presumption of good faith that is afforded to agency affidavits and declarations." Further, she pointed out, the FBI had begun to process Freedom Watch's request once it learned of its existence as part of Freedom Watch's complaint. She observed that "the responsiveness of Defendant FBI in processing the May FOIA Request, even when received in this unusual form as an attachment to the Complaint in this action, offers further support of the FBI's good faith in this matter. It has not sought to evade Plaintiff's request, but rather responded according to its standard intake procedures upon receiving the request." Dismissing the suit, Kollar-Kotelly indicated that "because Defendants did not yet have an obligation to search for responsive records, any challenge to the adequacy of Defendants' search for responsive records is premature."
Issues: Request - Receipt
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2016-05-251COMPLAINT for Freedom of Information Act request against Bureau of Land Management, US Department of Justice, and against FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION for May 9, 2014, FOIA request concerning Cliven Bundy ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-4542612) filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Freedom of Information Action request, May 9, 2014, # 2 Civil Cover Sheet, # 3 Summons Bureau of Land Management, # 4 Summons Department of Justice, # 5 Summons Federal Bureau of Investigation)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 05/25/2016)
2016-05-25Case Assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. (sth) (Entered: 05/25/2016)
2016-05-252SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Attachments: # 1 Summons, # 2 Summons, # 3 Summons)(sth) (Entered: 05/25/2016)
2016-06-013ORDER Establishing Procedures for Cases Assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on June 1, 2016. (NS) (Entered: 06/01/2016)
2016-07-074NOTICE of Appearance by Rhonda Lisa Campbell on behalf of All Defendants (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 07/07/2016)
2016-07-075MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint,, by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 07/07/2016)
2016-07-08MINUTE ORDER: Defendants filed a 5 Motion for an Extension of Time to Answer or Otherwise Respond to Complaint after close of business on July 7, 2016, the evening before the relevant deadline, indicating that Plaintiff objected to the request. In light of that motion, Plaintiff shall file a brief notice indicating the grounds for its objection no later than CLOSE OF BUSINESS on MONDAY, July 11, 2016, to inform the Court's resolution of the motion. Meanwhile, the deadline for Defendants to respond to the Complaint is extended to TUESDAY, July 12, 2016, at NOON. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 7/8/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 07/08/2016)
2016-07-08Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants to respond to the Complaint by 7/12/2016, at NOON. (dot) (Entered: 07/11/2016)
2016-07-116NOTICE of Objection to Defendants' Motion for Extension of Time by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. re 5 MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint,, (Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 07/11/2016)
2016-07-11MINUTE ORDER granting in part and denying in part Defendants' 5 Motion for an Extension of Time to Answer or Otherwise Respond to Complaint. Defendants' response to the Complaint was due on July 8, 2016. But after close of business on July 7, 2016, the evening before the relevant deadline, Defendants filed the pending motion, requesting 32 additional days to respond to the Complaint and indicating that Plaintiff objected to the request. The Court extended the deadline for Defendants' response until July 12, 2016, in order to provide Plaintiff an opportunity to indicate the essence of its objection. Plaintiff subsequently indicated that its objection was, essentially, that the requested extension is excessive and "dilatory." The Court agrees that the requested extension is excessive. Although the parties did not indicate when Defendants were served, Defendants indicate that counsel was assigned to this case during the week of June 20, 2016, when she was on annual leave. For whatever reason, the case was assigned to counsel while she was out of the office. As a result, no work was done on the case for three weeks until her return after July 4. In effect this was an administrative decision by the U.S. Attorney's office, which is not acceptable. However, because responding to the Complaint will require coordinating with the three Defendant agencies, the Court extends the deadline for the response to the Complaint for two weeks after the original deadline of July 8, 2016. Accordingly, Defendants shall respond to the Complaint by no later than JULY 22, 2016. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 7/11/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 07/11/2016)
2016-07-11Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants shall respond to the Complaint by 7/22/2016. (dot) (Entered: 07/14/2016)
2016-07-227ANSWER to Complaint by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION.(Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 07/22/2016)
2016-07-278ORDER requiring parties to meet and confer and file joint status report by August 25, 2016. See document for details. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 7/27/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 07/27/2016)
2016-07-27Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 8/25/2016. (dot) (Entered: 07/27/2016)
2016-08-259MEET AND CONFER STATEMENT. (Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 08/25/2016)
2016-08-2910SCHEDULING AND PROCEDURES ORDER setting schedule for briefing of dispositive motion. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 8/29/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 08/29/2016)
2016-08-3111MOTION for Discovery of Custodian of Record by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. (Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 08/31/2016)
2016-09-02MINUTE ORDER: In the Government's Answer to the Complaint, the Government stated that Defendants have "not received the FOIA request that is the subject of this Complaint." Answer, ECF No. 7, ¶ 5. Accordingly, and in light of the parties' 9 Joint Rule 16.3(c) Report, the Court set a schedule for the filing and briefing of Defendant's planned motion to dismiss. See ECF No. 10 . Plaintiff has now filed a 11 Request for Expedited Telephonic Status Conference and to Take Discovery of Defendants' Custodian of Records, arguing that the Government has acted in "bad faith" in claiming that the Defendant agencies never received the FOIA request that is the subject of the Complaint. To Plaintiff's Request, Plaintiff attaches several letters from Defendant FBI regarding FOIA requests submitted by Plaintiff Freedom Watch, indicating that the FBI had received those requests. In light of this request, the Court temporarily STAYS the briefing schedule previously set for Defendants' planned motion to dismiss in order to facilitate the resolution of Plaintiffs' request prior to the briefing of a motion to dismiss. In addition, even though Plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of Local Civil Rule 7(m) in the filing of its request, the Court requires a response from the Government before considering whether to grant the relief requested by Plaintiff, including holding a telephonic conference regarding this matter. Accordingly, the Government shall file a response to Plaintiffs' 11 Request for Expedited Telephonic Status Conference and To Take Discovery of Defendants' Custodian of Records no later than SEPTEMBER 23, 2016. Plaintiff shall, in turn, file a Reply no later than OCTOBER 7, 2016. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 9/2/2016. (lcckk2) (Entered: 09/02/2016)
2016-09-2312Memorandum in opposition to re 11 MOTION for Discovery of Custodian of Record filed by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration David Hardy, # 2 Declaration Ryan Witt, # 3 Exhibit Plaintiff's June 4, 2014 FOIA Request)(Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 09/23/2016)
2016-10-0713REPLY to opposition to motion re 11 MOTION for Discovery of Custodian of Record and for Telephonic Conference filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Declaration, # 2 Exhibit Complaint)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 10/07/2016)
2016-10-18MINUTE ORDER: Upon review of the briefings related to Plaintiff's 11 Request for Expedited Telephonic Status Conference and to Take Discovery of Defendants' Custodian of Records ("Request"), the Court makes the following inquiry of the parties, and it is hereby ORDERED that no later than October 20, 2016 at 4:00 PM, the Parties shall file a status report, either separately or jointly, in which they provide the Court with an update on the status of Defendants' response to the FOIA request dated May 9, 2014. The Parties shall not misconstrue this order as a request for further briefing on Plaintiff's 11 Request, but rather shall limit their filing(s) to a brief explanation of the procedural posture of Plaintiff's FOIA request dated May 9, 2014, and any administrative appeal related thereto. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 10/18/2016. (lcckk1) (Entered: 10/18/2016)
2016-10-2014NOTICE to the Court by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION re Order,,, (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 10/20/2016)
2016-10-2015NOTICE and STATUS REPORT as ordered by MINUTE ORDER of October 18, 2016 by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. re Order,,, 14 Notice (Other) (Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 10/20/2016)
2016-10-2716MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Denying Plaintiff's 11 Motion for Discovery. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 10/27/16. (lcckk1) (Entered: 10/27/2016)
2016-10-27MINUTE ORDER: With the September 2, 2016, temporary stay of the briefing schedule previously set for Defendants' planned motion to dismiss having been lifted by the Court's 16 Order, the Court hereby establishes the briefing schedule with which the parties shall comply: (i) Defendants shall file their Motion to Dismiss by no later than NOVEMBER 16, 2016; (ii) Plaintiff shall file its Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss by no later than DECEMBER 16, 2016; and (iii) Defendants shall file their reply to Plaintiff's Opposition by no later than DECEMBER 30, 2016. The Parties are reminded of the requirements and procedures set out in the Court's 10 Scheduling and Procedures Order, dated August 29, 2016. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 10/27/16. (lcckk1) (Entered: 10/27/2016)
2016-10-27Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants' Motion to Dismiss due by 11/16/2016. Response due by 12/16/2016. Reply due by 12/30/2016. (dot) (Entered: 10/27/2016)
2016-11-1617MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Declaration Second Declaration of David M. Hardy)(Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 11/16/2016)
2016-11-1618MOTION for Summary Judgment by BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 11/16/2016)
2016-11-2219NOTICE of Voluntary Dismissal by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. (Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 11/22/2016)
2016-11-23MINUTE ORDER: The Court is in receipt of Plaintiff's 19 "Notice of Voluntary Dismissal Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)." Upon the request of Plaintiff, it is hereby ORDERED that this action shall be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Accordingly, Defendants' [17, 18] "Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Complaint" is rendered MOOT by the dismissal of this action. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 11/23/216. (lcckk1, ) (Entered: 11/23/2016)
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by FOIA Project Staff