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Case TitlePROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE et al
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2017cv00842
Date Filed2017-05-08
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Christopher R. Cooper
PlaintiffPROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC.
Case DescriptionThe Project Democracy Project submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State for records concerning the legal authority for the missile attack on Syria. The Project also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. The agencies acknowledged receipt of the request. The State Department denied the Project's request for a fee waiver, but otherwise none of the agencies responded to the Project's requests for expedited processing or a fee waiver. After hearing nothing further from any of the agencies, the Protect Democracy Project filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Vaughn index, Public Interest Fee Waiver, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Documents
Docket
Complaint
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Complaint attachment 17
Opinion/Order [14]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Christopher Cross has ruled that the Department of Defense and the Department of State improperly denied a request by the Protect Democracy Project for expedited processing of its request for the legal basis supporting the Tomahawk cruise missile strike against Syria in retaliation for allegedly using chemical gas, but that the agencies are not required to commit to processing the requests by a date certain. The Protect Democracy Project requested the records from Defense, State, and the Justice Department. It requested expedited processing from all three agencies. Justice granted expedited processing but Defense and State denied the request. The Protect Democracy Project then filed suit against all three agencies, asking Cooper to order the agencies to complete its requests by a date certain. Cooper first found that Protect Democracy was primarily engaged in disseminating information. He then pointed out that Protect Democracy had shown that the Syrian airstrikes were a matter of current exigency, noting that "as evidence that they were justified [in making the claim of exigency], one need look no further than the widespread media attention " including by some of the nation's most prominent news outlets " paid both to the April 6 strike and its legality, as early as the date of Protect Democracy's requests." Cooper added that "if production is unduly delayed, both Protect Democracy and the public at large will be 'precluded. . .from obtaining in a timely fashion information vital to the current and ongoing debate surrounding the legality of' a high-profile government action " namely, military strikes against the Syrian government. Being closed off from such a debate is itself a harm in an open democracy." Cooper explained that "the recent escalation in hostilities between U.S. and Syria, plus indications from the White House that another chemical weapons attack may be in the offing, make it more likely that irreparable harm will result without expedited processing of Protect Democracy's requests . . .That is especially so, here, where the use of military force is implicated." But having granted Protect Democracy's request for expedited processing, Cooper observed that the relief available under the expedited processing provision was limited. He pointed out that "in cases where expedited processing has been granted, it follows that the district court's supervision will aim to ensure that the agency is processing a request with 'due diligence' and as quickly 'as practicable.' But there is no reason to assume that any request processed in less than twenty days has failed to meet that standard." He indicated that "it cannot be said, however, that there will be irreparable harm if the requested information is not released within, say, twenty days." He added that "requiring production by a date certain, without any factual basis for doing so, might actually disrupt FOIA's expedited processing regime rather than implement it." He concluded that "the Court will direct Defendants to process Protect Democracy's requests on an expedited basis, but will stop short, at this juncture at least, of ordering production by a date certain."
Issues: Expedited processing - Compelling Need, Expedited processing - Time limit
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2017-05-081COMPLAINT against All Defendants ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-4943202) filed by PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons, # 3 Summons, # 4 Summons, # 5 Summons, # 6 Summons, # 7 Exhibit, # 8 Exhibit, # 9 Exhibit, # 10 Exhibit, # 11 Exhibit, # 12 Exhibit, # 13 Exhibit, # 14 Exhibit, # 15 Exhibit, # 16 Exhibit, # 17 LCvR 7.1 Disclosure Certificate)(Murphy, Allison) (Entered: 05/08/2017)
2017-05-08Case Assigned to Judge Christopher R. Cooper. (sth) (Entered: 05/08/2017)
2017-05-082SUMMONS (5) Issued Electronically as to U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Summons, # 2 Summons, # 3 Summons, # 4 Summons, # 5 Summons)(sth) (Entered: 05/08/2017)
2017-05-223MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Exhibit A, # 3 Exhibit B, # 4 Exhibit C, # 5 Exhibit D, # 6 Exhibit E, # 7 Exhibit F, # 8 Exhibit G, # 9 Exhibit H, # 10 Exhibit I, # 11 Exhibit J, # 12 Declaration Declaration of Ian Bassin)(Murphy, Allison) (Entered: 05/22/2017)
2017-05-234NOTICE of Appearance by Benjamin Leon Berwick on behalf of PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. (Berwick, Benjamin) (Entered: 05/23/2017)
2017-05-235CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE by PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC. re 3 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction and Supporting Memorandum . (Murphy, Allison) (Entered: 05/23/2017)
2017-06-016RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 5/24/2017. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 6/23/2017. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Signed certified mail card)(Murphy, Allison) (Entered: 06/01/2017)
2017-06-027RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 05/24/2017. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Murphy, Allison) Modified on 6/6/2017 (zrdj). (Entered: 06/02/2017)
2017-06-028RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. All Defendants (Attachments: # 1 signed certified mail card to DoD, # 2 signed certified mail card to DOJ, # 3 signed certified mail card to State)(Murphy, Allison) Modified on 6/6/2017 (zrdj). (Entered: 06/02/2017)
2017-06-029NOTICE of Appearance by Kathryn Celia Davis on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Davis, Kathryn) (Entered: 06/02/2017)
2017-06-0210Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 3 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Davis, Kathryn) (Entered: 06/02/2017)
2017-06-06MINUTE ORDER granting 10 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply: It is hereby ORDERED that the deadline for Defendants to file an opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is extended to June 13, 2017, with any reply by Plaintiff due June 20, 2017. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 6/6/2017. (lccrc1) (Entered: 06/06/2017)
2017-06-06Set/Reset Deadlines: Opposition due by 6/13/2017. Reply due by 6/20/2017. (nbn) (Entered: 06/06/2017)
2017-06-1311Memorandum in opposition to re 3 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Email to Ian Bassin, # 2 Exhibit Order 03-2078, # 3 Exhibit Order 00-1396, # 4 Exhibit Order 06-1773, # 5 Exhibit Order 06-0096, # 6 Text of Proposed Order)(Davis, Kathryn) (Entered: 06/13/2017)
2017-06-2012REPLY to opposition to motion re 3 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction filed by PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC.. (Berwick, Benjamin) (Entered: 06/20/2017)
2017-06-2313ANSWER to Complaint by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE.(Davis, Kathryn) (Entered: 06/23/2017)
2017-06-26MINUTE ORDER: It is hereby ORDERED that the parties shall appear for a hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction on Friday, July 7, at 10:00 AM, in Courtroom 27A. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 6/26/2017. (lccrc1) (Entered: 06/26/2017)
2017-06-27Set/Reset Hearings: Motion Hearing set for 7/7/2017 at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 27A before Judge Christopher R. Cooper. (lsj) (Entered: 06/27/2017)
2017-07-07Minute Entry for Motion Hearing held before Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 7/7/2017. Motion 3 for Preliminary Injunction argued. Motion taken under advisement; forthcoming Order. (Court Reporter Lisa Moreira) (lsj) (Entered: 07/07/2017)
2017-07-1314MEMORANDUM OPINION re: 3 Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 7/13/2017. (lccrc1) (Entered: 07/13/2017)
2017-07-1315ORDER granting in part and denying in part 3 Motion for Preliminary Injunction. (See Order for details.). Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 7/13/2017. (lccrc1) (Entered: 07/13/2017)
2017-07-13Set/Reset Deadlines: Status Report due by 7/28/2017. Responses to Defendants' timeline, including its own proposal for processing and production due by 8/2/2017. (lsj) (Entered: 07/13/2017)
2017-07-1916TRANSCRIPT OF MOTION HEARING before Judge Christopher R. Cooper held on July 7, 2017; Page Numbers: 1-33. Date of Issuance:July 19, 2017. Court Reporter/Transcriber Lisa A. Moreira, RDR, CRR, Telephone number 202-354-3187, Transcripts may be ordered by submitting the Transcript Order Form For the first 90 days after this filing date, the transcript may be viewed at the courthouse at a public terminal or purchased from the court reporter referenced above. After 90 days, the transcript may be accessed via PACER. Other transcript formats, (multi-page, condensed, CD or ASCII) may be purchased from the court reporter. NOTICE RE REDACTION OF TRANSCRIPTS: The parties have twenty-one days to file with the court and the court reporter any request to redact personal identifiers from this transcript. If no such requests are filed, the transcript will be made available to the public via PACER without redaction after 90 days. The policy, which includes the five personal identifiers specifically covered, is located on our website at www.dcd.uscourts.gov. Redaction Request due 8/9/2017. Redacted Transcript Deadline set for 8/19/2017. Release of Transcript Restriction set for 10/17/2017.(Moreira, Lisa) (Entered: 07/19/2017)
2017-07-2817STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Davis, Kathryn) (Entered: 07/28/2017)
2017-08-0218RESPONSE re 17 Status Report filed by PROTECT DEMOCRACY PROJECT, INC.. (Murphy, Allison) Modified link on 8/3/2017 (znmw). (Entered: 08/02/2017)
2017-08-04MINUTE ORDER: In light of Defendants' Status Report and Plaintiff's Response, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendants shall provide an interim response to Plaintiff's FOIA request by August 18, 2017, including those records described in the status report which are most relevant to Plaintiff's request and any additional responsive documents that have been processed. It is further ORDERED that Defendants shall provide a final response to Plaintiff's request by September 8, 2017. After that date, the parties are directed to meet and confer in an effort to resolve any outstanding disputes, including the need for and timing of the production of a Vaughn index. No later than September 15, 2017, the parties shall file a joint status report with the Court, indicating whether there are any outstanding issues, and if so, proposing a timeline for further proceedings. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 8/4/2017. (lccrc1) (Entered: 08/04/2017)
2017-08-0419RESPONSE re 18 Response to Document filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Davis, Kathryn) (Entered: 08/04/2017)
2017-09-1520Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Davis, Kathryn) (Entered: 09/15/2017)
2017-09-19MINUTE ORDER: In light of the 15 Joint Status Report, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Final Vaughn Index is due on or before November 3, 2017; Plaintiff's Opposition is due on or before November 24, 2017; and Defendants' Reply is due on or before December 8, 2017. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 9/19/2017. (lccrc1) (Entered: 09/19/2017)
2017-09-19Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions and Vaughn Index due by 11/3/2017. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 11/24/2017. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/8/2017. (lsj) (Entered: 09/19/2017)
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