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Case TitleLAF et al v. Department of Veterans Affairs
DistrictNorthern District of Illinois
Case Number1:2017cv05035
Date Filed2017-07-06
Date Closed2017-10-11
JudgeHonorable Ruben Castillo
PlaintiffRebecca Moss
Case DescriptionRebecca Moss, a veteran, and LAF, an advocacy organization providing legal services for people living in poverty, submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Veterans Affairs for records concerning Moss's claims file. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Moss and LAF filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantDepartment of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20420
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [25]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in Illinois has ruled that LAF, a non-profit organization providing free legal services to persons living in poverty, may take discovery from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help it challenge the agency's policy of processing veterans' requests for their claims files solely under the Privacy Act rather than under both FOIA and the Privacy Act. When LAF made FOIA requests on behalf of veterans, the agency insisted on processing the requests as Privacy Act requests, although LAF cited both statutes. LAF filed suit challenging the agency's policy. The agency argued that LAF's request on behalf of a specific individual was moot once that individual received her records. The court agreed that the named veteran's claim was now moot, but that LAF had standing to bring a pattern or practice challenge because it "has pending FOIA requests with Defendant that will likely be subjected to the same practice, and that this practice of delaying information or not responding to FOIA requests by failing to abide by FOIA's procedures harms Plaintiff's ability to represent its clients." The court pointed out that "even if Defendant's records are covered by the Privacy Act, an agency presented with a FOIA request must also comply with FOIA unless the requested records fall within one of FOIA's nine exemptions. Indeed, the Privacy Act itself requires disclosure of any information than an agency must disclose pursuant to FOIA." Allowing LAF to take discovery, the court indicated that the agency had not yet carried its burden of showing that Exemption 3 (other statutes) or Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) covered any records subject to FOIA.
Issues: Litigation - Discovery, Litigation - Jurisdiction - Failure to State a Claim
User-contributed Documents
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2017-07-071COMPLAINT filed by LAF, Rebecca Moss; Filing fee $ 400, receipt number 0752-13349997. (Attachments: # 1 Appendix)(Socha, Kathryn) (Entered: 07/07/2017)
2017-07-072DECLARATION of LAF Corporate Disclosure Statement (Socha, Kathryn) (Entered: 07/07/2017)
2017-07-07CASE ASSIGNED to the Honorable Ruben Castillo. Designated as Magistrate Judge the Honorable Mary M. Rowland. (meg, ) (Entered: 07/10/2017)
2017-07-073NOTICE TO THE PARTIES - The Court is participating in the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot (MIDP). The key features and deadlines are set forth in the attached Notice which includes the MIDP Standing Order. Also attached is a checklist for use by the parties. In cases subject to the pilot, all parties must respond to the mandatory initial discovery requests set forth in the Standing Order before initiating any further discovery in this case. Please note: The discovery obligations in the Standing Order supersede the disclosures required by Rule 26(a)(1). Any party seeking affirmative relief must serve a copy of the attached documents (Notice to Parties and the Standing Order) on each new party when the Complaint, Counterclaim, Crossclaim, or Third-Party Complaint is served. (mma, ) (Entered: 07/10/2017)
2017-07-134CIVIL Cover Sheet (Socha, Kathryn) (Entered: 07/13/2017)
2017-07-135Attorney Appearance Form by LAF, Rebecca Moss (Socha, Kathryn) (Entered: 07/13/2017)
2017-07-27SUMMONS Issued as to Defendant Department of Veterans Affairs (pg, ) (Entered: 07/27/2017)
2017-08-10SUMMONS Issued as to Defendant Department of Veterans Affairs (pg, ) (Entered: 08/10/2017)
2017-08-286CERTIFICATE of Service by Kathryn Alexis Socha on behalf of All Plaintiffs (Socha, Kathryn) (Entered: 08/28/2017)
2017-09-147DESIGNATION of Susan Willoughby Anderson as U.S. Attorney for Defendant Department of Veterans Affairs (Anderson, Susan) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-148MOTION by Defendant Department of Veterans Affairs for extension of time VA's Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time to Respond to the Complaint (Anderson, Susan) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-149NOTICE of Motion by Susan Willoughby Anderson for presentment of extension of time 8 before Honorable Ruben Castillo on 9/19/2017 at 09:45 AM. (Anderson, Susan) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-1410MINUTE entry before the Honorable Ruben Castillo:Defendant's unopposed motion for extension of time to respond to the complaint 8 is granted. Defendant to answer or otherwise plead to the complaint by 9/29/2017. The parties are directed to file a joint status report by 10/5/2017. The Court will hold a status hearing in open court on 10/11/2017 at 9:45 a.m. The motion hearing set for 9/19/2017 is stricken.Mailed notice (rao, ) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-2911MOTION by Defendant Department of Veterans Affairs to dismiss (Anderson, Susan) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-09-2912NOTICE of Motion by Susan Willoughby Anderson for presentment of motion to dismiss 11 before Honorable Ruben Castillo on 10/11/2017 at 09:45 AM. (Anderson, Susan) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-09-2913MEMORANDUM by Department of Veterans Affairs in support of motion to dismiss 11 (Attachments: # 1 Ivy Affidavit)(Anderson, Susan) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-10-0314ATTORNEY Appearance for Plaintiffs LAF, Rebecca Moss by Catherine Schur (Schur, Catherine) (Entered: 10/03/2017)
2017-10-0415STATUS Report by LAF, Rebecca Moss (Socha, Kathryn) (Entered: 10/04/2017)
2017-10-1116MINUTE entry before the Honorable Ruben Castillo: Status hearing held. Motion hearing held. Defendant's motion to dismiss 11 is granted. This case is dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiffs are given leave to file an amended complaint by 11/13/2017. Defendant shall answer, move, or otherwise respond to the amended complaint by 12/4/2017. Civil case terminated. Mailed notice (ntf, ) (Entered: 10/11/2017)
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by FOIA Project Staff
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