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Case TitleSMITH v. MNUCHIN et al
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2017cv01796
Date Filed2017-09-01
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Tanya S. Chutkan
PlaintiffGRANT F. SMITH
Case DescriptionGrant Smith, a researcher and founder of the Institute for Research Policy: Middle Eastern Policy, submitted a FOIA request in 2012 to the Department of Treasury for records concerning the names, job titles, and phone numbers of Treasury employees. The agency responded by directing Smith to its website. Smith filed an administrative appeal, arguing that the information on the agency's website was not complete. The agency denied his appeal. Smith also submitted a FOIA request to OPM in 2012 for names and titles of employees at Treasury's Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Unit. OPM referred the request to Treasury. Treasury responded in 2014, but redacted the names of all but seven employees in the Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Unit. Smith filed an administrative appeal of Treasury's decision, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Smith finally filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit

DefendantSTEVEN T. MNUCHIN Secretary, U.S. Department of Treasury
DefendantKATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN Acting Director, Office of Personnel Management
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [27]
Opinion/Order [29]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Tanya Chutkan has ruled that the Department of Treasury properly withheld personally identifying information under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) in response to researcher Grant Smith's requests for names and identifying information for all Treasury employees. Smith requested the information from Treasury and then submitted a second request to OPM, which the agency referred to Treasury for response. Treasury sent Grant a copy of its headquarters organizational chart and referred him to its website. After Smith appealed the decision, Treasury upheld its action, citing Exemption 6. In his request to OPM, Smith specifically requested the names, titles, and occupations of employees in Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI). In response to OPM's referral, Treasury provided seven heavily redacted pages, citing Exemption 6 as well. Smith filed suit and Treasury searched its various components. Under Exemption 6, Treasury redacted business cell phone numbers for all personnel, and phone numbers for TFI, IRS, and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) employees. It also withheld the names of non-senior employees in law enforcement components, including some IRS employees, under Exemption 6 and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). Treasury also withheld the names, titles, and phone numbers of TFI employees, citing Exemption 1 (national security). Chutkan found that non-senior employees had a privacy interest in their names but indicated that work cell phone numbers were a closer call. She noted that "cell phone numbers implicate a different privacy interest from landline office phone numbers because employees carry cell phones with them outside the office and regular work hours." As such, she pointed out that "disclosing the numbers of work cell phones, which employees maintain in their homes and on their person, could subject them to the type of harassment exemption 6 was designed to prevent, and therefore the court finds that Treasury employees maintain a privacy interest in protecting their work cell phone numbers." However, Chutkan indicated that Treasury had not yet provided sufficient justification for its claim that phone numbers of TFI and IRS employees were protected by the privacy exemptions. She noted that "Treasury's affidavits are unclear about whether these are personal or office phone numbers Therefore, there is insufficient factual basis to determine the personal privacy interest in withholding disclosure of those phone numbers, and the court denies summary judgment on this issue. Again, because Treasury provided some information, the court will permit the agency to provide additional information and file a renewed motion for summary judgment." Having found that non-senior Treasury employees had a personal privacy interest, Chutkan addressed Smith's public interest claim. She found it fell short, noting that "Smith's request seems designed to obtain personal information that would allow him to infer the ethnic heritage, religion, and/or national origin of certain Treasury employees. The court cannot find that such an inquiry is in the public interest, but does find that disclosure would increase the risk of harassment to those employees." Chutklan agreed with Smith that the agency had failed to provide the records in his choice of format. She indicated that "Treasury did not respond to Smith's argument on this issue, and therefore the court will treat it as conceded. Therefore, Treasury must re-produce the requested documents in a form or format readily reproducible, consistent with FOIA, or provide Smith with a sufficiently detailed explanation on whether the requested form or format is readily reproducible."
Issues: Exemption 6 - Invasion of privacy, Choice of format
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2017-09-011COMPLAINT against KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN ( Filing fee $ 400, receipt number 4616086908) filed by GRANT F. SMITH. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(td) (Entered: 09/05/2017)
2017-09-01SUMMONS (4) Issued as to KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (td) (Entered: 09/05/2017)
2017-09-012NOTICE OF RELATED CASE by GRANT F. SMITH. Case related to Case No. 15-cv-1431 TSC. (td) (Entered: 09/05/2017)
2017-09-013MOTION for Order To Use Post Office Box and Agent Address by GRANT F. SMITH (td) (Entered: 09/05/2017)
2017-09-014MOTION for CM/ECF Password by GRANT F. SMITH (td) (Entered: 09/05/2017)
2017-09-05MINUTE ORDER: Granting 4 Motion for CM/ECF Password. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 9/5/17. (DJS) (Entered: 09/05/2017)
2017-09-295ENTERED IN ERROR.....RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the District of Columbia Attorney General. Date of Service Upon District of Columbia Attorney General 9/18/2017. Answer due for ALL D.C. DEFENDANTS by 10/9/2017. (SMITH, GRANT) Modified on 10/2/2017 (znmw). (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-09-296RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 09/12/2017. (SMITH, GRANT) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-09-297RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. STEVEN T. MNUCHIN served on 9/11/2017 (SMITH, GRANT) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-09-298RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN served on 9/11/2017 (SMITH, GRANT) (Entered: 09/29/2017)
2017-10-02NOTICE OF ERROR re 5 Summons Returned Executed as to DC Attorney General; emailed to gsmith@IRmep.org, cc'd 0 associated attorneys -- The PDF file you docketed contained errors: 1. Incorrect event used, 2. Please refile document, 3. ENTERED IN ERROR; Refile as Summons Returned Executed as to US Attorney. (znmw, ) (Entered: 10/02/2017)
2017-10-029RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 9/18/2017. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 10/18/2017. (SMITH, GRANT) (Entered: 10/02/2017)
2017-10-0310NOTICE of Appearance by Rhonda Lisa Campbell on behalf of KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 10/03/2017)
2017-10-1711MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 10/17/2017)
2017-10-19MINUTE ORDER granting in part and denying in part 11 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer. Defendant shall answer or otherwise respond to the complaint by November 17, 2017. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 10/19/17. (DJS) Modified event title on 10/20/2017 (znmw). (Entered: 10/19/2017)
2017-10-23Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer due by 11/17/2017. (tb) (Entered: 10/23/2017)
2017-11-1712ANSWER to Complaint by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN.(Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 11/17/2017)
2017-11-21MINUTE ORDER: Granting 3 Motion for Order to use PO Box address. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 11/21/17. (DJS) (Entered: 11/21/2017)
2017-11-21MINUTE ORDER: Before the Court in this FOIA case are a complaint and an answer. The requirements of LCvR 16.3 and Rule 26(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil procedure appear to be inapplicable. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the parties shall meet and confer and propose a schedule for proceeding in this matter. The schedule shall address the status of Plaintiff's FOIA request, the anticipated number of documents responsive to Plaintiff's FOIA request, the anticipated date(s) for release of the documents requested by Plaintiff, whether a motion for an Open America stay is likely in this case, whether a Vaughn index will be required in this case, whether and when either party anticipates filing a dispositive motion, and any other pertinent issues. The parties shall file a joint status report that addresses these issues and that contains a proposed schedule and proposed order not later than 12/19/17. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 11/1/17. (DJS) (Entered: 11/21/2017)
2017-11-26Set/Reset Deadlines: The parties shall file a Joint Status Report that contains a proposed schedule and proposed order by 12/19/17. (jth) (Entered: 11/26/2017)
2017-12-1913Joint STATUS REPORT and motion to stay proceedings by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN. (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 12/19/2017)
2017-12-1914MOTION to Stay Proceedings by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN; (See docket entry no. 13 to view) (td) (Entered: 12/20/2017)
2017-12-20NOTICE OF ERROR re 13 Status Report; emailed to rhonda.campbell@usdoj.gov, cc'd 4 associated attorneys -- The PDF file you docketed contained errors: 1. Two-part docket entry, 2. In the future, please remember to docket and select all appropriate events for your documents. (ztd, ) (Entered: 12/20/2017)
2017-12-20MINUTE ORDER: Having considered the parties' Joint Status Report 13 , it is hereby ordered that that Defendants shall complete its release of all documents responsive to Plaintiff's request according to the processing and production schedule agreed upon by the parties. The parties shall file a Joint Status Report no later than May 31, 2018, along with a proposed order for moving forward with this case. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 12/20/17. (DJS) (Entered: 12/20/2017)
2017-12-21Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 5/31/2018. (tb) (Entered: 12/21/2017)
2018-05-3115STATUS REPORT by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN. (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 05/31/2018)
2018-05-3116STRICKEN FROM THE RECORD PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER FILED ON 06/01/18.....Counter STATUS REPORT by GRANT F. SMITH. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Exhibit A - Redacted OTFI employee list)(SMITH, GRANT) Modified on 6/1/2018 (tb). Modified on 7/2/2018 (zrdj). (Entered: 05/31/2018)
2018-06-01MINUTE ORDER: On 12/20/18 this court ordered the parties to file a "joint" status report by 5/31/18. On 5/31/18 the Defendant filed a report in which it proposed a briefing schedule and represented to the court that Plaintiff had refused to agree to file a joint report unless Defendant agreed to certain demands regarding the FOIA request and Plaintiff's court fees/expenses. Plaintiff subsequently filed a separate report on 5/31/18 objecting to Defendant's proposed briefing schedule and objecting to Defendant's disclosures; Plaintiff did not provide any justification for ignoring this court's order by filing a separate report. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Status Report 16 is hereby stricken. Plaintiff is hereby directed to confer with Defendant and the parties shall file a joint report setting forth the positions of both parties by 6/5/18. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 6/1/18. (DJS) (Entered: 06/01/2018)
2018-06-0517NOTICE to the Court by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN re Order,,, (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 06/05/2018)
2018-06-0518STRICKENED FROM THE RECORD PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER FILED ON 06/06/18..... RESPONSE re 17 to DEFENDANT NOTICE TO THE COURT filed by GRANT F. SMITH. (SMITH, GRANT) Modified event title and added linkage on 6/6/2018 (ztd). Modified on 6/8/2018 (tb). (Entered: 06/05/2018)
2018-06-06MINUTE ORDER: Plaintiffs' "Response" 18 to Defendants' Notice is hereby STRICKEN for failing to comply with this court's 6/01/2018 Minute Order. The parties shall adhere to following briefing schedule: Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment due July 20, 2018. Plaintiff's Opposition due August 24, 2018. Defendants' Reply due September 10, 2018. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 6/6/18. (DJS) (Entered: 06/06/2018)
2018-06-08Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motion due by 7/20/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 8/24/2018. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 9/10/2018. (tb) (Entered: 06/08/2018)
2018-07-2019MOTION for Summary Judgment by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Declaration Dodson, # 4 Exhibit to Dodson Declaration, # 5 Declaration Farley, # 6 Declaration Hill, # 7 Declaration Mason)(Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 07/20/2018)
2018-07-2720ERRATA by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN 19 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration OPM, # 2 Declaration OPM)(Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 07/27/2018)
2018-08-2421RESPONSE re 19 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by GRANT F. SMITH. (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Statement of Facts, # 3 Appendix, # 4 Exhibit, # 5 Exhibit, # 6 Exhibit, # 7 Exhibit, # 8 Exhibit, # 9 Exhibit, # 10 Exhibit, # 11 Exhibit, # 12 Exhibit, # 13 Exhibit, # 14 Exhibit)(SMITH, GRANT) (Entered: 08/24/2018)
2018-08-2423Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment by GRANT F. SMITH. (See Docket Entry 21 to view document) (jf) (Entered: 09/06/2018)
2018-08-2922ERRATA Exhibit H, accidentally excluded by GRANT F. SMITH (SMITH, GRANT) Modified text on 8/29/2018 (ztd). (Entered: 08/29/2018)
2018-09-1024REPLY to opposition to motion re 19 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by KATHLEEN MCGETTIGAN, STEVEN T. MNUCHIN. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration Ford Decl. and Exhibits, # 2 Declaration Roayne)(Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 09/10/2018)
2019-03-3125ORDER granting 19 Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and denying 23 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. A Memorandum Opinion will be issued shortly, absent unforeseen circumstances. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 3/31/2019. (lctsc3) (Entered: 03/31/2019)
2020-01-0626MEMORANDUM re 25 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment,,, by GRANT F. SMITH. (SMITH, GRANT) (Entered: 01/06/2020)
2020-01-2327MEMORANDUM AND OPINION re 19 Defendants' motion for summary judgment and 23 Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 1/23/2020. (lcsd) (Entered: 01/23/2020)
2020-01-2328ORDER granting in part and denying, without prejudice, in part 19 Defendants' motion for summary judgment and denying, without prejudice, 23 Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 1/23/2020. (lcsd) (Entered: 01/23/2020)
2020-01-2329MEMORANDUM AND OPINION re 26 Plaintiff's Memorandum re 25 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment, which the court treats as a motion for disqualification. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 1/23/2020. (lcsd) (Entered: 01/23/2020)
2020-01-2330ORDER denying 26 Plaintiff's Memorandum re 25 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment, which the court treats as a motion for disqualification. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 1/23/2020. (lcsd) (Entered: 01/23/2020)
2020-01-24MINUTE ORDER: It is hereby ORDERED that the parties shall meet and confer and propose a schedule for proceeding in this matter. The schedule shall address the status of Plaintiff's FOIA requests, whether a Vaughn index will be required, whether and when either party anticipates filing a dispositive motion, and any other pertinent issues. The parties shall file a joint status report that addresses these issues no later than 2/28/20. The joint status report shall be accompanied by a proposed order. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 1/24/20. (lcsd) (Entered: 01/24/2020)
2020-01-24Set/Reset Deadline: Joint Status Report due by 2/28/2020. (jth) (Entered: 01/24/2020)
2020-02-2831Joint STATUS REPORT by STEVEN T. MNUCHIN. (Campbell, Rhonda) (Entered: 02/28/2020)
2020-03-02MINUTE ORDER: Having considered the parties joint status report 31 , it is hereby ordered that the parties shall file another joint report by 4/3/2020. Separate reports will be stricken sua sponte. The report shall be accompanied by a proposed order. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 3/2/2020. (DJS) (Entered: 03/02/2020)
2020-03-04Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 4/3/2020. (tb) (Entered: 03/04/2020)
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