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Case TitleFREEDOM WATCH, INC. v. MUELLER et al
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2018cv00088
Date Filed2018-01-15
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Emmet G. Sullivan
PlaintiffFREEDOM WATCH, INC.
Case DescriptionFreedom Watch submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Justice for records concerning contacts between the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI, and the Department of Justice and foreign or domestic media pertaining to the Russian investigation. After hearing nothing further from the agencies, Freedom Watch filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantROBERT S. MUELLER Special Counsel
DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
DefendantFEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2018-01-151COMPLAINT against FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE with Jury Demand ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5286627) filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Exhibit 1, # 2 Civil Cover Sheet, # 3 Summons, # 4 Summons, # 5 Summons)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 01/15/2018)
2018-01-16Case Assigned to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. (zsb) (Entered: 01/16/2018)
2018-01-162SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Attachment: # 1 Notice and Consent)(zsb) (Entered: 01/16/2018)
2018-01-16SUMMONS Not Issued as to U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General.....SUMMONS NOT FILED AT THE TIME COMPLAINT WAS FILED. (zsb) (Entered: 01/16/2018)
2018-01-163ENTERED IN ERROR.....REQUEST FOR SUMMONS TO ISSUE filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Summons)(Klayman, Larry) Modified on 1/17/2018 (znmw). (Entered: 01/16/2018)
2018-01-174STANDING ORDER: The parties are directed to read the attached Standing Order Governing Civil Cases Before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in its entirety upon receipt. The parties are hereby ORDERED to comply with the directives in the attached Standing Order. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 01/17/18. (Attachment: # 1 Exhibit 1) (mac) (Entered: 01/17/2018)
2018-01-17NOTICE OF ERROR re 3 Request for Summons to Issue; emailed to leklayman@gmail.com, cc'd 5 associated attorneys -- The PDF file you docketed contained errors: 1. Please refile document, 2. ENTERED IN ERROR; Summonses are blank; Resubmit completed summonses. (znmw, ) (Entered: 01/17/2018)
2018-01-175REQUEST FOR SUMMONS TO ISSUE re Notice of QC, filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. Related document: Notice of QC,. (Attachments: # 1 Summons)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 01/17/2018)
2018-01-186SUMMONS (2) Issued Electronically as to U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (znmw) (Entered: 01/18/2018)
2018-02-207NOTICE of Appearance by Joseph C. Dugan on behalf of All Defendants (Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 02/20/2018)
2018-02-208ANSWER to 1 Complaint, by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit List, # 2 Exhibit A (Order No. 3915-2017), # 3 Exhibit B (1/23/18 letter), # 4 Exhibit C (2/13/18 letter), # 5 Exhibit D (2/20/18 letter))(Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 02/20/2018)
2018-02-209ERRATA by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE 8 Answer to Complaint, filed by ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (Attachments: # 1 Errata Exhibit B - corrected)(Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 02/20/2018)
2018-03-01MINUTE ORDER. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552. The parties are directed to meet and confer and propose a joint scheduling order for further proceedings in this case by no later than April 1, 2018. The parties' joint proposed scheduling order shall address the following: (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 documents responsive to plaintiff's FOIA request; (4) Whether a motion for an Open America stay is likely in this case; (5) Whether a Vaughn index will be required in this case; (6) Whether this case would benefit from referral to a magistrate judge or the District Court Mediation Program for purposes of settlement; and (7) A proposed briefing schedule for dispositive motions, if applicable. If the parties are unable to agree on a joint recommendation, the joint proposed scheduling order shall include each party's individual recommendations. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 3/1/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 03/01/2018)
2018-03-01Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Scheduling Order due by 4/1/2018. (mac) (Entered: 03/01/2018)
2018-03-2310MOTION for Summary Judgment by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 03/23/2018)
2018-03-3011Joint STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 03/30/2018)
2018-04-02MINUTE ORDER in view of 11 joint status report, in which the plaintiff requests an expedited status conference and the defendants request more time to complete a search for potentially responsive records, the Court finds that there is good cause to allow the defendants to continue searching for potentially responsive records. The government is therefore ordered to complete its search for potentially responsive records by the end of April 2018. Defendants shall file a status report apprising the Court of the number of responsive documents and defendants' position as to further scheduling matters by no later than May 11, 2018. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 4/2/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 04/02/2018)
2018-04-03Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants Status Report due by 5/11/2018 (mac) (Entered: 04/03/2018)
2018-04-0612RESPONSE re 10 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Appendix, # 2 Exhibit A (Counter-Statement of Disputed Facts), # 3 Exhibit B (Dugan Declaration), # 4 Exhibit C (Castellano Declaration), # 5 Text of Proposed Order)(Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 04/06/2018)
2018-05-0113SUPPLEMENT and Update re 11 Status Report by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Klayman, Larry) Modified event title and added link on 5/8/2018 (znmw). (Entered: 05/01/2018)
2018-05-02MINUTE ORDER directing the government to respond to 13 plaintiff's supplemental status report by no later than May 4, 2018. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 5/2/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 05/02/2018)
2018-05-02Set/Reset Deadlines: Government Response To 13 Plaintiff's Supplemental Status Report due by 5/4/2018 (mac) (Entered: 05/02/2018)
2018-05-0414RESPONSE re 13 to Plaintiff's "Supplement and Update" filed by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Dugan, Joseph) Modified to add link on 5/8/2018 (znmw). (Entered: 05/04/2018)
2018-05-0815RESPONSE re 14 Response to Document filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 05/08/2018)
2018-05-0916NOTICE of Third Supplement to Joint Status Report by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. re 15 Response to Document, 13 Status Report (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Exhibit)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 05/09/2018)
2018-05-1117STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 05/11/2018)
2018-05-14MINUTE ORDER directing plaintiff to respond to the timeline proposed in 17 defendants' status report by no later than May 21, 2018. If the plaintiff intends to request a production timeline that is faster than the one proposed by the government, the plaintiff is directed to support such a request with reasons beyond those included its previously-filed supplements. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 5/14/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 05/14/2018)
2018-05-1418RESPONSE to May 11 17 Status Report filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. (Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 05/14/2018)
2018-05-16MINUTE ORDER in view of 17 government's status report and 18 plaintiff's response, the Court hereby schedules a status conference for May 24, 2018 at 10:30 am in Courtroom 24A. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 5/16/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 05/16/2018)
2018-05-16Set/Reset Hearings: Status Conference set for 5/24/2018 at 10:30 AM in Courtroom 24A before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. (mac) (Entered: 05/16/2018)
2018-05-24Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan: Status Conference held on 5/24/2018. Order forthcoming from chambers. (Court Reporter: Scott Wallace.) (jl) (Entered: 05/24/2018)
2018-05-25MINUTE ORDER. As ordered at the May 24, 2018 status conference, the government is directed to produce all non-exempt documents responsive to Freedom Watch's FOIA request by no later than September 4, 2018. The parties shall file a joint status report recommending next steps for further proceedings by no later than September 18, 2018. In light of the Court's Order, 10 plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied as moot. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 5/25/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 05/25/2018)
2018-05-27Set/Reset Deadline: The parties shall file a Joint Status Report recommending the next steps for further proceedings by 9/18/2018. (jth) (Entered: 05/27/2018)
2018-08-1319TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan held on 5-24-18; Page Numbers: 1-30. Date of Issuance:8-13-18. Court Reporter/Transcriber Scott Wallace, Telephone number 202-354-3196, Transcripts may be ordered by submitting the <a href="http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/node/110">Transcript Order Form</a><P></P><P></P>For the first 90 days after this filing date, the transcript may be viewed at the courthouse at a public terminal or purchased from the court reporter referenced above. After 90 days, the transcript may be accessed via PACER. Other transcript formats, (multi-page, condensed, CD or ASCII) may be purchased from the court reporter.<P> NOTICE RE REDACTION OF TRANSCRIPTS: The parties have twenty-one days to file with the court and the court reporter any request to redact personal identifiers from this transcript. If no such requests are filed, the transcript will be made available to the public via PACER without redaction after 90 days. The policy, which includes the five personal identifiers specifically covered, is located on our website at www.dcd.uscourts.gov.<P></P> Redaction Request due 9/3/2018. Redacted Transcript Deadline set for 9/13/2018. Release of Transcript Restriction set for 11/11/2018.(Wallace, Scott) (Entered: 08/13/2018)
2018-08-2920MOTION for Extension of Time to Complete FOIA Production by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit List, # 2 Exhibit A (E-mail chain), # 3 Exhibit B (Declaration), # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 08/29/2018)
2018-08-3021RESPONSE re 20 MOTION for Extension of Time to Complete FOIA Production and Request for Emergency Limited Evidentiary Hearing filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 08/30/2018)
2018-09-03MINUTE ORDER granting in part 20 defendants' opposed motion for an extension of time to complete FOIA production. The defendants shall produce to the plaintiff the responsive, non-exempt records it identifies in paragraph 2 of its motion by no later than September 4, 2018. The defendants shall thereafter file a status report updating the Court on the status of its remedial search efforts by no later than September 12, 2018. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 9/3/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 09/03/2018)
2018-09-04Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants Status Report due by 9/12/2018. (mac) (Entered: 09/04/2018)
2018-09-1222STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 09/12/2018)
2018-09-1423RESPONSE to 22 Defendants' Status Report filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Klayman, Larry) Modified on 9/19/2018 to add linkage. (ztd). (Entered: 09/14/2018)
2018-09-17MINUTE ORDER in view of 22 the government's status report and 23 the plaintiff's response, the Court hereby directs the government to file another status report by no later than September 26, 2018. The status report should inform the Court how many additional records, if any, must be processed and should provide an estimate as to how long it will take to produce those records to the plaintiff. The status report should also describe the technical issue the government discovered and explain why the government did not discover the issue earlier. The Court declines to schedule a hearing at this time, in light of the government's timely production of all non-exempt records as of September 4, 2018. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 9/17/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 09/17/2018)
2018-09-17Set/Reset Deadlines: Government Status Report due by 9/26/2018. (mac) (Entered: 09/17/2018)
2018-09-2624STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration)(Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 09/26/2018)
2018-10-01MINUTE ORDER in view of 24 defendants' status report, the defendants are hereby directed to finalize production of the additional responsive, non-exempt records by no later than November 1, 2018. Requests for additional time will be viewed with disfavor. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 10/1/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 10/01/2018)
2018-10-0925NOTICE of Appearance by Bradley P. Humphreys on behalf of All Defendants (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 10/09/2018)
2018-10-1226NOTICE of Change of Address by Joseph C. Dugan (Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 10/12/2018)
2018-11-02MINUTE ORDER directing the parties to file a joint status report to update the Court on the defendants' production and to provide recommendations for further proceedings by no later than November 19, 2018. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 11/2/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 11/02/2018)
2018-11-05Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 11/19/2018. (mac) (Entered: 11/05/2018)
2018-11-1927Joint STATUS REPORT by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 11/19/2018)
2018-11-26MINUTE ORDER. The Court has considered the parties' positions, as set forth in 27 joint status report. The Court is not inclined to agree with plaintiff that good cause exists for allowing discovery regarding the adequacy of the defendants' search. That said, the Court will allow plaintiff to file a brief, no longer than 8 pages, regarding the propriety of allowing discovery by no later than December 7, 2018. The government is directed to respond by no later than December 21, 2018. The government's response shall not exceed 8 pages. The Court declines to set a summary judgment briefing schedule at this time. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 11/26/2018. (lcegs3) (Entered: 11/26/2018)
2018-11-27Set/Reset Deadlines: Plaintiff Brief due by 12/7/2018. Government Response due by 12/21/2018 (mac) (Entered: 11/27/2018)
2018-12-0428ENTERED IN ERROR.....MOTION for Discovery and Plaintiff's Response to the Court's Minute Order of November 26, 2018 Concerning the Allowance of Discovery by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1, # 2 Text of Proposed Order)(Klayman, Larry) Modified on 12/4/2018 (jf). (Entered: 12/04/2018)
2018-12-04NOTICE OF CORRECTED DOCKET ENTRY: Document No. re 28 MOTION for Discovery and Plaintiff's Response to the Court's Minute Order of November 26, 2018 Concerning the Allowance of Discovery was entered in error and counsel was instructed to refile said pleading using the court event. (jf) (Entered: 12/04/2018)
2018-12-0429RESPONSE TO ORDER OF THE COURT re Order,, filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1)(Klayman, Larry) (Entered: 12/04/2018)
2018-12-2130RESPONSE re 29 Response to Order of the Court filed by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 12/21/2018)
2018-12-2631REPLY re: 29 to Defendants' Memorandum in Response to Plaintiff's Response to Order of the Court filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC.. (Klayman, Larry) Modified on 12/27/2018 (ztd). (Entered: 12/26/2018)
2019-01-03MINUTE ORDER denying 29 Freedom Watch's request for discovery and/or in camera review. Freedom Watch's request is based on mere conjecture and is premature. As this Court stated in Judicial Watch v. Department of State, "[d]iscovery is rare in FOIA cases." ECF No. 73 at 8-9, 13-cv-1363 (citing Thomas v. FDA, 587 F. Supp. 2d 114, 115 (D.D.C. 2008)(noting that "discovery is an extraordinary procedure in a FOIA action")(allowing discovery because the plaintiff had raised a sufficient question as to the adequacy of the government's search). That said, discovery "should be permitted... when a plaintiff raises a sufficient question as to the agency's good faith" in responding to the FOIA request. Id. at 9 (citations omitted). Here, Freedom Watch has not raised a sufficient question as to the agency's good faith in responding to its FOIA request. Instead, it offers two speculative accusations. First, it suggests that a spokesperson for the Special Counsel's Office has been leaking grand jury information because he "secretly met" with a member of the press, as evidenced by the "chumminess" in emails between the spokesperson and the member of the press (that were produced to Freedom Watch). This accusation is unfounded. The Court has reviewed the emails and they do not corroborate Freedom Watch's claim. Indeed, friendliness in professional emails does not raise a sufficient question as to the agency's good faith. Second, Freedom Watch accuses the Department of Justice of bad faith for "conveniently" discovering a "technical glitch" at the last minute, causing it to re-run its search of responsive documents. However, there is no basis in reality to believe that this disclosure was, as Freedom Watch puts it, an "attempt to shield themselves from the public seeing evidence of their routinely leaking grand jury information to the media and other disclosures for their tactical motivations." When the government disclosed that it had discovered a problem that required it to re-run a search to ensure that it had found all responsive documents, the Court ordered the defendant to file a declaration explaining what happened and why the government had not discovered it earlier. See Sept. 17, 2018 Minute Order. The government filed a sworn declaration that satisfied the Court that the reason for the delay in production was benign. Moreover, as a result of the government discovering the technical difficulty, Freedom Watch may have received additional records to which it was entitled. Because the government's declarations must be "accorded a presumption of good faith, which cannot be rebutted by purely speculative claims," SafeCard Servs. v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200 (D.C. Cir. 1991)(quotations omitted), the Court will not permit discovery at this stage of the proceedings. Additionally, in camera review is premature. Typically, discovery in the absence of bad faith or in camera review is permitted after summary judgment briefing. If Freedom Watch believes the government improperly withheld or redacted documents, it can explain its argument in its opposition to the defendant's motion for summary judgment. "If the Court agrees with Plaintiff that [the defendant] is not entitled to summary judgment, the Court shall reconsider Plaintiff's requests for discovery. However, the Court shall not permit any discovery to be taken until it has considered [the defendant's]... motion for summary judgment." North v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 729 F. Supp. 2d 74, 7778 (D.D.C. 2010). In light of this Order, the parties are directed to file a joint status report recommending a summary judgment briefing schedule by no later than February 4, 2019. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 1/3/2019. (lcegs3) (Entered: 01/03/2019)
2019-01-03Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 2/4/2019. (mac) (Entered: 01/03/2019)
2019-02-0432STATUS REPORT of Defendants by FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. (Humphreys, Bradley) (Entered: 02/04/2019)
2019-02-05MINUTE ORDER. In view of 32 defendants' status report that states "[c]ounsel for Plaintiff... has not responded to the [government's] repeated attempts to contact him by email and telephone," the Court directs Mr. Larry E. Klayman, Esq. to file a status report by no later than February 8, 2019. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 2/5/2019. (lcegs3) Modified on 2/7/2019 (lcegs3, ). (Entered: 02/05/2019)
2019-02-0533RESPONSE to 32 Status Report and Proposed Schedule filed by FREEDOM WATCH, INC. (Klayman, Larry) Modified on 2/6/2019 to add docket link (jf). (Entered: 02/05/2019)
2019-02-06Set/Reset Deadlines: Larry E. Klayman, Esq Status Report due by 2/8/2019. (mac) (Entered: 02/06/2019)
2019-02-07MINUTE ORDER. In view of 32 Defendants' status report and 33 Plaintiff's response to defendant's status report and proposed schedule, the parties are directed to adhere to the following briefing schedule: (1) Defendants shall file their Motion for Summary Judgment by no later than March 29, 2019; (2) Plaintiff shall file its Combined Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by no later than April 29, 2019; (3) Defendants shall file their Combined Reply in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary judgment by no later than May 29, 2019; and (4) Plaintiff shall file its Reply in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment by no later than June 19, 2019. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 2/7/2019. (lcegs3) (Entered: 02/07/2019)
2019-02-08Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants Motion For Summary Judgment due by 3/29/2019. Plaintiff Combined Opposition To Defendants Motion For Summary Judgment And Cross-Motion For Summary Judgment due by 4/29/2019. Defendants Combined Reply In Support Of Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment And Opposition To Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment due by 5/29/2019. Plaintiff Reply In Support Of Its Motion For Summary Judgment due by 6/19/2019. (mac) (Entered: 02/08/2019)
2019-02-2334NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF APPEARANCE as to FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, ROBERT S. MUELLER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. Attorney Joseph C. Dugan terminated. (Dugan, Joseph) (Entered: 02/23/2019)
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