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Case TitlePROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC. et al v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2017cv01193
Date Filed2017-06-18
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge James E. Boasberg
PlaintiffPROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC.
PlaintiffRYAN NOAH SHAPIRO
PlaintiffJASON LEOPOLD
Case DescriptionProperty of the People, a non-profit dedicated to government transparency, journalist Jason Leopold, and researcher Ryan Shapiro submitted FOIA requests to the FBI for records concerning Donald Trump. The FBI issued a Glomar response neither confirming nor denying the existence of records. The requesters filed administrative appeals with the Office of Information Policy. After hearing nothing further, Property of the People, Leopold, and Shapiro filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantDEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Opinion/Order [25]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge James Boasberg has ruled that while the FBI properly invoked a Glomar response neither confirming nor denying the existence of records on Donald Trump before he became President there may be a narrow category of records that relate to Trump's business interests that are not necessarily protected by Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records) and would not qualify for Glomar protection. Reporter Jason Leopold, researcher Ryan Shapiro, and Shapiro's non-profit organization Property of the People requested FBI records on Trump before he became President, including any non-investigative records. The FBI issued a Glomar response. Leopold and Shapiro argued that the FBI had already disclosed a considerable amount of information about Trump's business interests and that such disclosures waived the agency's ability to withhold records related to those interests. The agency argued that its obligation to acknowledge records on Trump was limited only to those bits of information about Trump that had already been disclosed. Boasberg agreed, noting that "the 'specific information at issue' is whether the FBI might have 'additional records about Mr. Trump.' The public hasn't a clue on that question, and the Bureau is entitled to keep the answer a secret. The Court accordingly holds that the FBI has waived its Glomar response only with respect to those exact records previously released." Even though Leopold and Shapiro had asked for non-investigative records on Trump, the FBI contended it need not search for such records because the plaintiffs had not provided evidence that such records existed. But Boasberg observed that "contrary to Defendant's (uncited) assertions, there is no requirement that Plaintiffs provide evidence that such records exist." The FBI also argued that since the majority of its records pertained to law enforcement matters it would be unduly burdensome to search for non-investigative records. Boasberg rejected that claim, noting that "perhaps the Government can prove otherwise, but it does not appear 'unduly burdensome' to ask the agency to search for Donald Trump's name within the [Central Records System database] and see whether any personnel or administrative records surface." He indicated that "for now, though, it suffices to say that the FBI should construe Plaintiff's request as written " for 'any and all' records related to Donald Trump "or submit an affidavit explaining in greater detail why such a search would be unduly burdensome." As a general rule, Boasberg agreed with the FBI that any investigative records mentioning Trump would be protected by Exemption 7(C). Here, Leopold and Shapiro argued that Trump's privacy interest was diminished if the records related to Trump's business interests rather than his personal privacy interest. Noting that the public interest in overcoming a Glomar response was to reveal the actions of the government, Boasberg pointed out that "plaintiffs offer no evidence, however, that the Department might harbor some sort of grudge against the sitting President, or, critically, that any such feelings motivated an 'improper' performance of its statutory duties in the past." Boasberg explained that "Exemption 7(C) would not block a request for records relating to the Trump Organization, nor would it require the FBI to redact any mention of Trump's affiliation with that company." But he added that Leopold and Shapiro had already made requests for records about Trump's businesses and charities, but because the extent to which the FBI had disclosed records as a result of those requests was unclear, Boasberg ordered the FBI to provide supplementary affidavits. Leopold and Shapiro had pointed to the existence of a Washington Post article about Trump's Atlantic City casinos in which Trump revealed his relationship with Daniel Sullivan who he described as an FBI informant. Boasberg agreed with Leopold and Shapiro that the Post article may have waived the FBI's ability to protect those records through a Glomar response. But he noted that the Post article was the subject of a separate request to the FBI and was not a part of the present litigation.
Issues: Determination - Glomar response, Exemption 7(C) - Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2017-06-181COMPLAINT against DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-4995873) filed by PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., JASON LEOPOLD, RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons Attorney General, # 3 Summons Department of Justice, # 4 Summons USAO-DC)(Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 06/18/2017)
2017-06-182LCvR 7.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 06/18/2017)
2017-06-19Case Assigned to Judge James E. Boasberg. (jd) (Entered: 06/19/2017)
2017-06-193SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachment: # 1 Consent Forms)(jd) (Entered: 06/19/2017)
2017-06-234RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 06/20/2017., RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 6/20/2017. ( Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 7/20/2017.), RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE served on 6/20/2017 (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 06/23/2017)
2017-07-115NOTICE of Appearance by Marina Utgoff Braswell on behalf of DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 07/11/2017)
2017-07-206ANSWER to Complaint by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.(Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 07/20/2017)
2017-07-21MINUTE ORDER: The Court ORDERS that the parties shall meet, confer, and submit a proposed briefing schedule by August 4, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 7/21/2017. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 07/21/2017)
2017-07-21Set/Reset Deadlines: Meet, confer, and submit a proposed briefing schedule by 8/4/2017. (nbn) (Entered: 07/21/2017)
2017-08-047Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 08/04/2017)
2017-08-07MINUTE ORDER: Pursuant to the parties' 7 Joint Status Report, the Court ORDERS that they provide a further joint status report on or before September 11, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 8/7/2017. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 08/07/2017)
2017-09-118Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 09/11/2017)
2017-09-11MINUTE ORDER: Pursuant to the parties' 8 Joint Status Report, the Court ORDERS that they provide a further joint status report on or before October 11, 2017. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 9/11/2017. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 09/11/2017)
2017-10-119Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 10/11/2017)
2017-10-12MINUTE ORDER: Per the parties' 9 Joint Status Report, the Court ORDERS that: 1) Defendant shall file its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on or before November 14, 2017; 2) Plaintiffs shall file their Opposition and Cross-Motion on or before December 14, 2017; 3) Defendant shall file its Reply and Opposition on or before January 12, 2018; 4) Plaintiffs shall file their Reply on or before February 1, 2018; and 5) the parties shall file another Joint Status Report on or before November 14, 2017. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 10/12/2017. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 10/12/2017)
2017-10-12Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 11/14/2017. Summary Judgment motions due by 11/14/2017. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/14/2017. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 1/12/2018. Replies due by 2/1/2018. (nbn) (Entered: 10/12/2017)
2017-11-1310Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Motion for Summary Judgment in Part by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 11/13/2017)
2017-11-14MINUTE ORDER GRANTING 10 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that 1) Defendant shall file its Motion for Summary Judgment on or before November 17, 2017; and 2) Plaintiffs shall file their Opposition on or before December 18, 2017. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 11/14/2017. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 11/14/2017)
2017-11-14Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 11/17/2017. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/18/2017. (nbn) (Entered: 11/14/2017)
2017-11-1411Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 11/14/2017)
2017-11-14MINUTE ORDER: Per the parties' 11 Joint Status Report, the Court ORDERS that they shall file a further joint status report on or before January 12, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 11/14/2017. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 11/14/2017)
2017-11-14Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 1/12/2018. (nbn) (Entered: 11/14/2017)
2017-11-1712MOTION for Summary Judgment in Part by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Attachments: # 1 Hardy Declaration, # 2 Hardy Declaration - Exhibits)(Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 11/17/2017)
2017-12-1813Memorandum in opposition to re 12 MOTION for Summary Judgment in Part filed by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1 - FBI file on Fred Trump, # 2 Exhibit 2 - Mercury News article, # 3 Statement of Facts, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 12/18/2017)
2017-12-1814Cross MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1 - FBI file on Fred Trump, # 2 Exhibit 2 - Mercury News article, # 3 Statement of Facts, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 12/18/2017)
2018-01-1015Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 Cross MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment , 12 MOTION for Summary Judgment in Part by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 01/10/2018)
2018-01-10MINUTE ORDER GRANTING 15 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that Defendant shall respond to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on or before January 26, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 1/10/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 01/10/2018)
2018-01-10Set/Reset Deadlines: Responses due by 1/26/2018. (nbn) (Entered: 01/11/2018)
2018-01-1416Joint STATUS REPORT by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 01/14/2018)
2018-01-16MINUTE ORDER: Per the parties' 16 Joint Status Report, the Court ORDERS that they shall file a further joint status report on or before March 9, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 1/16/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 01/16/2018)
2018-01-16Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 3/9/2018. (nbn) (Entered: 01/16/2018)
2018-01-2617Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 Cross MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment , 12 MOTION for Summary Judgment in Part by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 01/26/2018)
2018-01-29MINUTE ORDER GRANTING 17 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that: 1) Defendant shall file its Response/Reply on or before January 29, 2018; and 2) Plaintiffs shall reply on or before February 26, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 1/29/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 01/29/2018)
2018-01-29Set/Reset Deadlines: Responses due by 1/29/2018. Replies due by 2/26/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 01/29/2018)
2018-01-2918Memorandum in opposition to re 14 Cross MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts -Response, # 2 Second Hardy Declaration)(Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 01/29/2018)
2018-01-2919REPLY to opposition to motion re 12 MOTION for Summary Judgment in Part filed by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Second Hardy Declaration)(Braswell, Marina) (Entered: 01/29/2018)
2018-01-2920ENTERED IN ERROR.....NOTICE of Filing of Second Hardy Declaration by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE re 18 Memorandum in Opposition, 19 Reply to opposition to Motion (Attachments: # 1 Second Hardy Declaration)(Braswell, Marina) Modified on 1/30/2018 (znmw). (Entered: 01/29/2018)
2018-01-2921NOTICE of Filing of Second Hardy Declaration by DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE re 18 Memorandum in Opposition, 19 Reply to opposition to Motion (Attachments: # 1 Second Hardy Declaration)(Braswell, Marina) Modified on 1/30/2018 (znmw). (Entered: 01/29/2018)
2018-01-30NOTICE OF CORRECTED DOCKET ENTRY: Docket Entry 20 Notice (Other) was entered in error and was refiled by counsel as Docket Entry 21 Notice (Other). (znmw) (Entered: 01/30/2018)
2018-02-2622REPLY to opposition to motion re 14 Cross MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1 - The Washington Post interview transcript)(Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 02/26/2018)
2018-03-0923Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 03/09/2018)
2018-03-12MINUTE ORDER: Per the parties' suggestion, the Court ORDERS that they shall submit a further joint status report on or before May 9, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 3/12/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 03/12/2018)
2018-03-12Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 5/9/2018. (nbn) (Entered: 03/12/2018)
2018-04-2324ORDER: The Court ORDERS that: 1) Defendant's 12 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED; and 2) Plaintiffs' 14 Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 4/23/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 04/23/2018)
2018-04-2325MEMORANDUM OPINION re 24 Order denying Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 4/23/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 04/23/2018)
2018-05-0926Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 05/09/2018)
2018-05-10MINUTE ORDER: Per the parties' suggestion, the Court ORDERS that they shall file a further joint status report on or before July 13, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 5/10/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 05/10/2018)
2018-05-10Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 7/13/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 05/11/2018)
2018-07-1227Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 07/12/2018)
2018-07-13MINUTE ORDER: Per the parties' suggestion, the Court ORDERS that they shall file a further joint status report on or before September 6, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 7/13/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 07/13/2018)
2018-07-13Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 9/6/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 07/13/2018)
2018-09-0628Joint STATUS REPORT by JASON LEOPOLD, PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE, INC., RYAN NOAH SHAPIRO. (Light, Jeffrey) (Entered: 09/06/2018)
2018-09-07MINUTE ORDER: Per the parties' suggestion, the Court ORDERS that they shall file a further joint status report on or before October 16, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 9/7/2018. (lcjeb3) (Entered: 09/07/2018)
2018-09-07Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 10/16/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 09/07/2018)
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by FOIA Project Staff
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