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Case TitlePRECHTEL v. FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2017cv01835
Date Filed2017-09-07
Date Closed2019-03-20
JudgeJudge Christopher R. Cooper
PlaintiffJASON PRECHTEL
Case DescriptionJason Prechtel submitted a FOIA request to the Federal Communications Commission for records concerning public Application Programming Interface keys. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Prechtel filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantFEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
DefendantGENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Opinion/Order [32]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Christopher Cooper has ruled that the FCC must disclose email addresses used to submit comma-separated value (.CSV) files pertaining to public comments made to the agency in response to its decision to repeal the net-neutrality provisions put in place during the Obama administration to journalist Jason Prechtel, but has held Prechtel's challenge to application programing interface (API) keys in abeyance until the General Services Administration can weigh in on who owns them. Cooper also found that redactions the agency made under Exemption 5 (privileges) were appropriate. Prechtel filed a FOIA request with the FCC and GSA for public API keys used to submit online comments, including associated registration names and email addresses, as well as copies of data files submitted through those API keys, and logs of dates and times that those API keys were used to submit comments. Prechtel's request to the FCC also asked for email addresses associated with .CSV comment uploads, along with the .CSV files uploaded, logs of dates and times the email addresses submitted comments, and email inquiries to ECFSHelp@fcc.gov regarding .CSV comment submissions. GSA told Prechtel that the FCC has control of the API keys. After the FCC failed to respond, Prechtel filed suit. The FCC then disclosed 15 pages responsive to Prechtel's query about the help desk, redacted several emails, and told Prechtel that it did not maintain records on the API keys, asserting that GSA maintained those records. Because Prechtel did not add GSA as a defendant until after he and the FCC had filed summary judgment motions, GSA had not yet addressed the issue of who owned the API keys. Cooper approved the FCC's redactions based on the deliberative process privilege. Turning to the email addresses used for submitting .CSV comments, Cooper pointed out that the FCC misunderstood Prechtel's request by assuming that he wanted to public comments that were available on its website. Cooper noted that Prechtel was requesting the .CSV files themselves, not their content. He observed that "the .CSV files have independent value " principally, they reflect which comments were submitted together and, assuming disclosure of the bulk file submitters' email addresses, by whom. Whether or not the Commission properly withheld the email addresses of bulk submitters, it still must justify independently the withholding of the files themselves." Although email addresses of individual submitters were public, the FCC argued that bulk submitters only transmitted files and did not necessarily comment. Cooper disagreed, noting that "the individuals here sought to influence agency decision-making by submitting scores of public comments into the administrative record. This makes them more akin to individual commenters who provide their email addresses when petitioning the government. . .Any difference between public commenters' and bulk submitters' privacy interests is one of degree, not kind. . .In other words, when someone submits multiple comments to influence public policy and is told that her email address will become part of the public record, her privacy interest in that email address is not as strong as the Commission now suggests." Cooper agreed that there was a public interest in knowing more about the number of potentially fraudulent email addresses used in submitted comments. He pointed out that "the public-commenting process appears to have been corrupted by endemic fraud and the Commission hopes to take action to ensure that this problem will not recur. Disclosure of the email addresses and .CSV files will enable interested observers to scrutinize that action (or its absence) by defining the scope of the problem." Explaining why disclosure of more information would benefit the public interest, Cooper observed that "the already public information paints only part of the picture. The .CSV files will reveal which public comments were submitted together and " with disclosure of the bulk submitter email addresses " by whom. The public might better understand the agency's responsiveness to various constituencies if it knows which stakeholders solicited and facilitated bulk public comments and which comments they submitted."
Issues: Request - Specificity
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2017-09-071COMPLAINT against FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5106638) filed by Jason Prechtel. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons)(Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 09/07/2017)
2017-09-082ERRATA against FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION filed by Jason Prechtel. (Attachments: # 1 Errata Please not that this is exhibit A to the complaint for case 17-cv-1835 that was filed yesterday.)(Topic, Matthew) Modified event title on 9/20/2017 (znmw). (Entered: 09/08/2017)
2017-09-08Case Assigned to Judge Christopher R. Cooper. (md) (Entered: 09/11/2017)
2017-09-113SUMMONS (1) Issued Electronically as to FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION. (Attachments: # 1 Notice of Consent) (md) (Entered: 09/11/2017)
2017-09-11SUMMONS (2) Not Issued as to non-party U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney General. (FOIA SUMMONS WERE NOT SUBMITTED AT THE TIME COMPLAINT WAS FILED) (md) (Entered: 09/11/2017)
2017-11-164ENTERED IN ERROR.....REQUEST FOR SUMMONS TO ISSUE re 3 Summons Issued Electronically, 1 Complaint filed by JASON PRECHTEL. Related document: 3 Summons Issued Electronically, 1 Complaint filed by JASON PRECHTEL. (Attachments: # 1 Summons)(Topic, Matthew) Modified on 11/17/2017 (znmw). (Entered: 11/16/2017)
2017-11-17NOTICE OF ERROR re 4 Request for Summons to Issue; emailed to matt@loevy.com, cc'd 2 associated attorneys -- The PDF file you docketed contained errors: 1. Incorrect document/case, 2. Please refile document, 3. ENTERED IN ERROR; Incorrect summonses submitted; Resubmit correct FOIA summonses. (znmw, ) (Entered: 11/17/2017)
2017-11-175REQUEST FOR SUMMONS TO ISSUE filed by JASON PRECHTEL. (Attachments: # 1 Summons, # 2 Summons)(Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 11/17/2017)
2017-11-206SUMMONS (2) Issued Electronically as to U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (znmw) (Entered: 11/20/2017)
2017-11-277NOTICE of Appearance by Johnny Hillary Walker, III on behalf of FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 11/27/2017)
2017-12-158ANSWER to Complaint by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION.(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 12/15/2017)
2017-12-15MINUTE ORDER: Before the Court in this FOIA case are a complaint and an answer. It is hereby ORDERED that the parties shall promptly confer and file a joint proposed schedule for briefing or disclosure by January 3, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 12/15/2017. (lccrc3) (Entered: 12/15/2017)
2017-12-18Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule due by 1/3/2018 (lsj) (Entered: 12/18/2017)
2017-12-189NOTICE of Appearance by Joshua Hart Burday on behalf of JASON PRECHTEL (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 12/18/2017)
2018-01-0310Joint PROPOSED BRIEFING SCHEDULE by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION. (Walker, Johnny) Modified event title on 1/4/2018 (znmw). (Entered: 01/03/2018)
2018-01-04MINUTE ORDER granting the parties' proposed briefing schedule. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is due on or before February 16, 2018. Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion are due on or before March 16, 2018. Defendant's Opposition and Reply are due on or before April 6, 2018. Plaintiff's Reply is due on or before April 20, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 1/4/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 01/04/2018)
2018-01-04Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 2/16/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 3/16/2018. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 4/6/2018. Plaintiff's Replies due by 4/20/2018. (lsj) (Entered: 01/04/2018)
2018-02-1611MOTION for Summary Judgment by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Statement of Material Facts as to Which There Is No Genuine Issue, # 3 Declaration of Ryan Yates, # 4 Exhibit 1 - Vaughn Index, # 5 Exhibit 2 - Letter from FCC, # 6 Text of Proposed Order)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 02/16/2018)
2018-03-1212Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by JASON PRECHTEL (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 03/12/2018)
2018-03-13MINUTE ORDER granting 12 Motion for Extension of Time. Plaintiff shall file any opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before March 30, 2018. Defendant shall file its opposition and reply on or before April 20, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 3/13/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 03/13/2018)
2018-03-2913Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Plaintiff's Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by JASON PRECHTEL (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 03/29/2018)
2018-03-29MINUTE ORDER granting 13 Motion for Extension of Time. Plaintiff shall file the Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on or before April 13, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 3/29/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 03/29/2018)
2018-03-30Set/Reset Deadlines: Plaintiff shall file the Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on or before 4/13/2018. (kt) (Entered: 03/30/2018)
2018-04-1314MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment by JASON PRECHTEL (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 04/13/2018)
2018-04-1315MEMORANDUM re 14 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by JASON PRECHTEL by JASON PRECHTEL. (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 04/13/2018)
2018-04-1316RESPONSE re 11 MOTION for Summary Judgment Opposition to Defendant Statement of Material Facts filed by JASON PRECHTEL. (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 04/13/2018)
2018-04-1317MEMORANDUM re 14 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by JASON PRECHTEL by JASON PRECHTEL. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Exhibit D, # 5 Exhibit E, # 6 Exhibit F, # 7 Exhibit G, # 8 Exhibit H, # 9 Exhibit I, # 10 Exhibit J, # 11 Exhibit K)(Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 04/13/2018)
2018-04-1318NOTICE of Proposed Order by JASON PRECHTEL re 17 Memorandum, (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 04/13/2018)
2018-05-0219Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 14 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment , 11 MOTION for Summary Judgment by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 05/02/2018)
2018-05-04MINUTE ORDER granting 19 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply. Defendant shall file a reply in support of its motion for summary judgment and an opposition to Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment on or before May 18, 2018. Plaintiff shall file a reply in support of his cross-motion for summary judgment on or before June 1, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 5/4/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 05/04/2018)
2018-05-04Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 5/18/2018. Plaintiff's Responses due by 6/1/2018. (lsj) (Entered: 05/04/2018)
2018-05-0920Unopposed MOTION for Leave to File Amended Complaint by JASON PRECHTEL (Attachments: # 1 Amended Complaint)(Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 05/09/2018)
2018-05-10MINUTE ORDER granting 20 Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint. The amendment of the complaint will not affect the current summary judgment briefing schedule as to defendant FEC. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 5/10/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 05/10/2018)
2018-05-1021AMENDED COMPLAINT against FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION filed by JASON PRECHTEL.(td) (Entered: 05/10/2018)
2018-05-1022NOTICE of Appearance by Johnny Hillary Walker, III on behalf of All Defendants (Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 05/10/2018)
2018-05-1723Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 05/17/2018)
2018-05-22MINUTE ORDER granting 23 Motion for Extension of Time. Defendant shall file a reply in support of its motion for summary judgment and an opposition to Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment on or before June 17, 2018. Plaintiff shall file a reply in support of his cross-motion for summary judgment on or before July 2, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 5/22/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 05/22/2018)
2018-05-22Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 6/17/2018. Plaintiff's Reply due by 7/2/2018. (lsj) (Entered: 05/22/2018)
2018-06-1824Memorandum in opposition to re 14 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Genuine Issues, # 2 Supplemental Declaration of Ryan Yates)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 06/18/2018)
2018-06-1825REPLY to opposition to motion re 11 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION. (Attachments: # 1 Supplemental Declaration of Ryan Yates)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 06/18/2018)
2018-06-2126Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Plaintiff's Reply in Support of Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by JASON PRECHTEL (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order Proposed Order)(Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 06/21/2018)
2018-06-25MINUTE ORDER granting 26 Motion for Extension of Time. Plaintiff's Reply in Support of the Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is due on July 16, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 6/25/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 06/25/2018)
2018-06-25Set/Reset Deadlines: Plaintiff's Reply in Support of the Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment due by 7/16/2018. (lsj) (Entered: 06/25/2018)
2018-07-0527Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply by JASON PRECHTEL (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order Proposed Order)(Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 07/05/2018)
2018-07-09MINUTE ORDER granting 27 Motion for Extension of Time. Plaintiff's Reply in Support of his Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is due on or before July 30, 2018. No further extensions will be granted. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 7/9/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 07/09/2018)
2018-07-09Set/Reset Deadlines: Plaintiff's Reply in Support of Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment due by 7/30/2018. (lsj) (Entered: 07/09/2018)
2018-07-3028REPLY to opposition to motion re 14 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by JASON PRECHTEL. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A -Fed Communications Commission, # 2 Exhibit B - Fed Communications Commission, # 3 Exhibit C - Fed Communications Commission, # 4 Exhibit D - Toomey Comment, # 5 Exhibit E - API Registration Email)(Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 07/30/2018)
2018-08-16MINUTE ORDER directing the parties to appear for a Telephone Conference set for 8/16/2018 at 2:00 PM before Judge Christopher R. Cooper. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 8/16/18. (lsj) (Entered: 08/16/2018)
2018-08-16Minute Entry for Telephone Conference held before Judge Christopher R. Cooper held on 8/16/2018. Case to proceed in normal posture. (Court Reporter: Lisa Moreira) (lsj) (Entered: 08/16/2018)
2018-08-1729REQUEST FOR SUMMONS TO ISSUE filed by JASON PRECHTEL.(Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 08/17/2018)
2018-08-2130Summons (1)Issued as to GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION. (jf) (Entered: 08/21/2018)
2018-09-1331ORDER granting in part and denying in part 11 Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 14 Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; and directing the parties to meet and confer and file a joint status report on or before October 15, 2018. See full order for details. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 9/13/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 09/13/2018)
2018-09-1332MEMORANDUM OPINION re 31 ORDER granting in part and denying in part the parties' motions for summary judgment. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 9/13/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 09/13/2018)
2018-09-1933RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION served on 8/27/2018 (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 09/19/2018)
2018-10-0434ANSWER to 21 Amended Complaint by GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION.(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 10/04/2018)
2018-10-1535Joint STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION. (Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 10/15/2018)
2018-10-17VACATED PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER ENTERED 11/29/2018.....MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of the parties' 35 Joint Status Report, it is hereby ORDERED that the parties shall adhere to a briefing schedule as follows: Defendants shall file their motion for summary judgment on or before November 29, 2018; Plaintiff shall file his opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before January 18, 2019; Defendants shall file their reply and opposition on or before February 1, 2019; Plaintiff shall file his reply on or before February 15, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 10/17/2018. (lccrc3) Modified on 11/30/2018 (zlsj). (Entered: 10/17/2018)
2018-10-17Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 11/29/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 1/18/2019. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 2/1/2019. Plaintiff's Replies due by 2/15/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 10/17/2018)
2018-11-2836Consent MOTION to Continue the Summary-Judgment Briefing Schedule by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 11/28/2018)
2018-11-29VACATED PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER ENTERED 2/1/2019......MINUTE ORDER granting 36 Defendants' Motion to Continue Briefing Schedule and vacating the schedule entered on 10/17/2018. The parties shall adhere to the following briefing schedule: Defendants shall file their motion for summary judgment on or before December 31, 2018; Plaintiff shall file his opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before February 19, 2019; Defendants shall file their reply and opposition on or before March 4, 2019; Plaintiff shall file his reply on or before March 18, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 11/29/2018. (lccrc3) Modified on 2/1/2019 (zlsj). (Entered: 11/29/2018)
2018-11-30Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 12/31/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 2/19/2019. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 3/4/2019. Replies due by 3/18/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 11/30/2018)
2018-12-2737Consent MOTION to Stay in Light of a Lapse of Appropriations by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 12/27/2018)
2018-12-27MINUTE ORDER granting 37 Motion to Stay. Defendants shall notify the Court as soon as necessary funding is renewed. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 12/27/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 12/27/2018)
2019-01-2938NOTICE of Restored Funding and Proposed Schedule by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION re Order on Motion to Stay (Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 01/29/2019)
2019-02-01VACATED PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER ENTERED ON 2/13/2019......MINUTE ORDER: In light of the restoration of appropriations, the stay in this case is lifted. Upon consideration of 38 Notice and Proposed Schedule, it is hereby ORDERED that briefing schedule entered on November 29, 2018 is vacated. The parties shall adhere to the following briefing schedule: Defendants shall file their motion for summary judgment on or before February 15, 2019; Plaintiff shall file his opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before April 8, 2019; Defendants shall file their reply and opposition on or before April 22, 2019; Plaintiff shall file his reply on or before May 13, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 02/01/2019. (lccrc3) Modified on 2/14/2019 (zlsj). (Entered: 02/01/2019)
2019-02-1139Joint MOTION to Vacate Order,, Setting a Briefing Schedule by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 02/11/2019)
2019-02-13MINUTE ORDER granting 39 Motion to Vacate Briefing Schedule. The briefing schedule entered on February 1, 2019 is hereby VACATED. The parties are hereby ORDERED to file a joint status report on or before March 27, 2019, to include an update on negotiations regarding attorneys' fees. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 02/13/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 02/13/2019)
2019-02-14Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 3/27/2019 (lsj) (Entered: 02/14/2019)
2019-03-2040STIPULATION of Dismissal and Settlement by FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION. (Walker, Johnny) (Entered: 03/20/2019)
2019-03-2041ORDER dismissing the case and adopting the stipulation of settlement filed by the parties. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 03/20/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 03/20/2019)
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