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Case TitleAMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2017cv01866
Date Filed2017-09-12
Date Closed2018-09-19
JudgeJudge Amit P. Mehta
PlaintiffAMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE
Case DescriptionThe American Center for Law and Justice submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Justice and the FBI for records concerning the meeting between Bill Clinton and then Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Phoenix airport in 2016. The agencies acknowledged receipt of the request. The FBI told ACLJ that it found no responsive records. After the Office of Information Policy failed to respond, ACLJ filed suit. More than a year later, OIP told ACLJ that it had located responsive records. OIP disclosed 98 pages with limited redactions. The FBI then reopened ACLJ's request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, ACLJ filed a second complaint.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Search, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a component of Dept. of Justice (DOJ)
DefendantUNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Complaint attachment 6
Complaint attachment 7
Complaint attachment 8
Opinion/Order [25]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Amit Mehta has ruled that the FBI properly redacted two records under Exemption 5 (privileges), Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy), and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records) in response to the American Center for Law and Justice's FOIA request for records pertaining to the June 2016 meeting between Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Phoenix Airport. The FBI initially told ACLJ that it found no records, but subsequently indicated that it had found two records totaling 29 pages, which it disclosed with redactions. Mehta found that Exemption 7(C) did not apply to the single email the FBI sought to withhold because the email was not created for law enforcement purposes. Mehta noted that "the email references a conference call; in context, it appears that the purpose of the call is related to a media inquiry regarding the Clinton-Lynch meeting. In short, Defendant has not carried its burden of making a connection between the email and an enforcement proceeding." But he agreed that the redactions of FBI employees were protected by Exemption 6 since ACLJ had shown no public interest in the identifying information sufficient to overcome the individual privacy interests. ACLJ argued that the deliberative process privilege did not apply to talking point memos because they were final. Mehta pointed out that although Judge Timothy Kelly had recently ruled in another case brought by ACLJ against the Justice Department involving similar memos prepared to address press inquiries that they were both predecisional and deliberative, neither party had brought the case to Mehta's attention. Applying Kelly's holding, Mehta observed that "these talking points are no more than 'advice from subordinates' to senior officials, who may or may not rely upon them if asked to comment to the press." He rejected ACLJ's claim that the agency had failed to segregate facts from recommendations, noting that "the process of sifting the facts in this case cannot be separated from the facts themselves."
Issues: Exemption 5 - Privileges - Deliberative process privilege - Predecisional, Exemption 5 - Privileges - Deliberative process privilege - Deliberative
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2017-09-121COMPLAINT against UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5112533) filed by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Exhibit D, # 5 Civil Cover Sheet, # 6 Summons, # 7 Summons, # 8 Summons)(Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 09/12/2017)
2017-09-12Case Assigned to Judge Amit P. Mehta. (md) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-142LCvR 7.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-143NOTICE of Appearance by Benjamin Paul Sisney on behalf of AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (Sisney, Benjamin) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-144NOTICE of Appearance by Stuart J. Roth on behalf of AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (Roth, Stuart) (Entered: 09/14/2017)
2017-09-155SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Notice of Consent) (md) (Entered: 09/15/2017)
2017-10-056RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 09/22/2017. (Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 10/05/2017)
2017-10-057RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 9/22/2017. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 10/22/2017. (Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 10/05/2017)
2017-10-058RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE served on 9/22/2017 (Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 10/05/2017)
2017-10-239NOTICE of Appearance by Marsha Wellknown Yee on behalf of UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 10/23/2017)
2017-10-2310ANSWER to Complaint by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE.(Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 10/23/2017)
2017-10-24MINUTE ORDER. Both a Complaint and an Answer are now before the court in this FOIA case. It is hereby ordered that the parties shall meet and confer and file a Joint Status Report on or before November 7, 2017. The Joint Status Report shall include (1) the status of Plaintiff's FOIA request; (2) the anticipated number of documents responsive to Plaintiff's FOIA request; (3) the anticipated date(s) for release of the documents requested by Plaintiff; (4) whether a motion for stay is likely under Open America v. Watergate Special Prosecution Force, 547 F.2d 605 (D.C. Cir. 1976); and (5) whether the parties anticipate summary judgment briefing and, if so, a proposed briefing schedule. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 10/24/2017. (lcapm3) (Entered: 10/24/2017)
2017-10-24Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Joint Status Report due by 11/7/2017. (zcdw) (Entered: 10/25/2017)
2017-11-0711Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 11/07/2017)
2017-11-08MINUTE ORDER. The parties shall file another Joint Status Report no later than December 15, 2017, advising the court whether there remain any unresolved issues in this matter and, if so, proposing a briefing schedule. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 11/08/2017. (lcapm3) (Entered: 11/08/2017)
2017-11-08Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Joint Status Report due by 12/15/2017. (zcdw) (Entered: 11/09/2017)
2017-12-1512Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 12/15/2017)
2017-12-1813ORDER setting the following schedule for further proceedings in this matter: (1) Defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be filed on or before February 1, 2018; (2) Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be filed on or before February 26, 2018; and (3) Defendant's reply in further support of its motion for summary judgment shall be filed on or before March 23, 2018. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 12/18/2017. (lcapm3) (Entered: 12/18/2017)
2017-12-18Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Summary Judgment motion due by 2/1/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 2/26/2018. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 3/23/2018. (zcdw) (Entered: 12/19/2017)
2018-02-0114MOTION for Summary Judgment by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Declaration David M. Hardy, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 02/01/2018)
2018-02-0115NOTICE of Filing Declaration of David M. Hardy by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE re 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment (Attachments: # 1 Declaration David M. Hardy)(Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 02/01/2018)
2018-02-2616Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Statement of Facts)(Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 02/26/2018)
2018-02-2617Memorandum in opposition to re 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE. (See Docket Entry 16 to view document). (znmw) (Entered: 02/27/2018)
2018-02-27MINUTE ORDER amending the court's 13 Order. The revised schedule in this matter is as follows: Defendants' Reply and Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment shall be filed on or before March 23, 2018; Plaintiffs' Reply shall be filed on or before April 17, 2018. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 02/27/2018. (lcapm3) (Entered: 02/27/2018)
2018-02-27Set/Reset Deadlines/Hearings: Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 3/23/2018. Response to Cross Motions due by 3/23/2018. Reply to Cross Motions due by 4/17/2018. (zcdw) (Entered: 02/27/2018)
2018-03-2218Unopposed MOTION to Vacate Remainder of Briefing Schedule , MOTION to Stay Summary Judgment Proceedings by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Attachments: # 1 Declaration David M. Hardy, # 2 Text of Proposed Order)(Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 03/22/2018)
2018-03-23MINUTE ORDER granting Defendant's 18 Unopposed Motion to Vacate Remainder of Briefing Schedule and to Stay Summary Judgment Proceedings. The summary judgment briefing schedule entered on February 27, 2018, is hereby vacated and summary judgment briefing in this matter is stayed. The parties shall file a Joint Status Report no later than April 26, 2018, that addresses the status of the FBI's additional searches and, if appropriate, proposes a revised summary judgment briefing schedule. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 03/23/2018. (lcapm3) (Entered: 03/23/2018)
2018-04-2619Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 04/26/2018)
2018-04-27MINUTE ORDER. In light of the parties' 19 Joint Status Report, the parties are directed to file another Joint Status Report on or before June 12, 2018, which advises the court whether any unresolved disputes remain and, if so, proposes a summary judgment briefing schedule. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 4/27/2018. (lcapm2) (Entered: 04/27/2018)
2018-06-1220Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 06/12/2018)
2018-06-14MINUTE ORDER. In light of the parties' 20 Joint Status Report, the parties are directed to file another Joint Status Report on or before June 19, 2018, which advises the court whether any unresolved disputes remain and, if so, proposes a summary judgment briefing schedule. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 06/14/2018. (lcapm3) (Entered: 06/14/2018)
2018-06-14Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 6/19/2018. (zjd) (Entered: 06/14/2018)
2018-06-1921Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 06/19/2018)
2018-06-25MINUTE ORDER. In light of the parties' 21 Joint Status Report, the schedule for summary judgment briefing as to the challenges to Defendant's withholdings in Plaintiff's 16 Cross-Motion is as follows: Defendant's Reply and Opposition shall be filed on or before August 7, 2018; and Plaintiffs' Reply shall be filed on or before August 24, 2018. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 06/25/2018.(lcapm3) (Entered: 06/25/2018)
2018-06-25Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Reply and Opposition due by 8/7/2018. Plaintiff's Reply due by 8/24/2018. (zjd) (Entered: 06/26/2018)
2018-08-0722Memorandum in opposition to re 16 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment filed by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Def.'s Resps. to Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts, # 2 Third Hardy Decl., # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 08/07/2018)
2018-08-0723REPLY to opposition to motion re 14 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Def.'s Resps. to Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts, # 2 Third Hardy Decl., # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Yee, Marsha) (Entered: 08/07/2018)
2018-08-2324REPLY to opposition to motion re 16 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE. (Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 08/23/2018)
2018-09-07MINUTE ORDER. No later than September 12, 2018, at noon, Defendant shall provide unredacted versions of the following records to the court for in camera review: FBI-2, FBI-3, FBI-23, and FBI-24. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 9/7/2018. (lcapm2) (Entered: 09/07/2018)
2018-09-07Set/Reset Deadlines: In-Camera Submission due by 12:00 PM on 9/12/2018. (zjd) (Entered: 09/07/2018)
2018-09-1925MEMORANDUM OPINION re: Defendant's 14 Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's 16 Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. See the attached Memorandum Opinion for details. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 09/19/2018. (lcapm3) (Entered: 09/19/2018)
2018-09-1926ORDER. For the reasons stated in the 25 Memorandum Opinion, the court grants Defendant's 14 Motion for Summary Judgment and denies Plaintiff's 16 Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 09/19/2018. (lcapm3) (Entered: 09/19/2018)
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