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Case TitleHUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES v. ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE et al
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2018cv00646
Date Filed2018-03-21
Date Closed2019-06-03
JudgeJudge Trevor N. McFadden
PlaintiffHUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES
Case DescriptionThe Humane Society of the United States submitted a FOIA request to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for records concerning inspection reports for the Natural Bridge Zoo in Natural Bridge, Virginia. HSUS submitted a second FOIA request for inspection reports for four other family-operated facilities. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests. The agency provided 19 pages in response to the first FOIA request, with redactions under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). HSUS filed administrative appeals for both requests. The agency upheld its initial decisions and told HSUS that it now considered family-operated facilities to have a heightened privacy interest in personal information. HSUS then filed suit.
Complaint issues: Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE
DefendantUNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
DefendantSONNY PURDUE in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture
DefendantSONNY PURDUE in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture
TERMINATED: 06/14/2018
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Complaint attachment 6
Opinion/Order [30]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Trevor McFadden has ruled that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service improperly withheld records describing inspections of homestead animal facilities under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records) in response to requests from the Humane Society because the public interest outweighed the owners' personal privacy interest but indicated that as a general matter the agency should normally withhold identifying information about owner-operated facilities while disclosing substantive information about the agency's inspections. The Humane Society requested records about inspections of a facility identified by its USDA Certificate Number. The agency's search located 137 pages of inspection records, 663 photographs, and 11 videos. The agency disclosed nine pages of inspection records in full but redacted street addresses and zip codes, as well as other information that might allow the Humane Society to match them to inspection reports available on the agency's online database. When the Humane Society appealed, the agency disclosed information from the photographs that included the licensee's name, certificate number, and the name of the agency photographer but continued to withhold everything else as well as the 11 videos. The Humane Society then filed suit, challenging the agency's claims under the two privacy exemptions. The agency argued that "the licensees have privacy interests in the narrative sections because linking the licensees' names " which the Service has already disclosed " with descriptions of noncompliant conduct can invite harassment and stigma." The Humane Society argued that the agency's evidence was largely anecdotal hearsay. McFadden agreed in part, noting that "without the accounts of harassment from the licensees, the [agency's] declaration's justification for withholding the information is reduced to speculation and summary accounts of the hearsay. Nothing in [the agency's declaration] suggests that the agency has verified or confirmed any of these reports." But he explained that because the facilities were owner-operated their employees had more than a de minimis privacy interest. He noted that "because the licensees and third-parties have a significant privacy interest in their names, addresses, and personally identifying information, and because there is no public interest in that information, the balancing is easy. The Service properly withheld the licensees' addresses and names of third-party veterinarians under Exemption 6." The Humane Society argued that Exemption 7(C) was inapplicable here because the inspection reports were not compiled for law enforcement purposes. McFadden disagreed, noting that "these inspection reports relate to the Service's responsibility to enforce the [Animal Welfare Act] and ensure compliance by licensees, not oversight of employees. Routine inspection reports may not be 'investigatory' but there is a 'rational nexus' between the reports and the Service's law enforcement duties." However, he pointed out that "even under Exemption 7(C)'s broader standard, the Service's withholding of the narratives and descriptions of noncompliant conduct is improper." McFadden concluded that "the Service properly withheld the licensees' addresses and contact information from the inspection documents. It also properly withheld third-parties' names, images, and personally identifying information. But the Service's other withholdings " dates, inspection narratives, animal inventories, and so on " were improper and the Service must now disclose that information to the extent it is reasonably segregable from the information properly withheld."
Issues: Exemption 6 - Invasion of privacy, Exemption 7(C) - Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2018-03-211COMPLAINT against ALL DEFENDANTS ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5383001) filed by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons, # 3 Summons, # 4 Summons, # 5 Summons, # 6 Summons)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 03/21/2018)
2018-03-212Corporate Disclosure Statement by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES. (Friend, Laura) (Entered: 03/21/2018)
2018-03-21Case Assigned to Judge Trevor N. McFadden. (zmd) (Entered: 03/23/2018)
2018-03-263SUMMONS (5) Issued Electronically as to ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, SONNY PURDUE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General. (Attachments: # 1 Notice and Consent) (tth) (Entered: 03/26/2018)
2018-04-114RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 4/2/2018. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 5/2/2018. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Receipts of Mailing)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 04/11/2018)
2018-04-115RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 4/2/2018. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Receipts of Mailing)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 04/11/2018)
2018-04-116RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE served on 4/2/2018 (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Receipt and Tracking)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 04/11/2018)
2018-04-117RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE served on 3/30/2018 (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Receipt and Tracking)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 04/11/2018)
2018-04-118RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. SONNY PURDUE served on 3/30/2018 (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Receipts of Mailing)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 04/11/2018)
2018-04-119STANDING ORDER Establishing Procedures for Cases Before Judge Trevor N. McFadden. The parties are hereby ORDERED to read and comply with the directives in the attached standing order. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 4/11/2018. (lctnm2) (Entered: 04/11/2018)
2018-04-2510NOTICE of Appearance by Joshua M. Kolsky on behalf of ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, SONNY PURDUE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 04/25/2018)
2018-04-2511Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer or Otherwise Respond to Complaint by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, SONNY PURDUE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 04/25/2018)
2018-04-26MINUTE ORDER. The Defendants' 11 Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time is hereby GRANTED. The Defendants shall file their answer or other responsive pleading on or before June 1, 2018. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 4/26/2018. (lctnm2) (Entered: 04/26/2018)
2018-04-26Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants' response to Complaint due by 6/1/2018. (hmc) (Entered: 04/26/2018)
2018-05-3112WITHDRAWN pursuant to notice filed on 6/14/2018.....MOTION to Dismiss in Part by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, SONNY PURDUE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Kolsky, Joshua) Modified on 6/14/2018 (hmc). (Entered: 05/31/2018)
2018-06-1413NOTICE of Voluntary Dismissal by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES (Friend, Laura) (Entered: 06/14/2018)
2018-06-1414NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF MOTION by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, SONNY PURDUE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE re 12 MOTION to Dismiss in Part (Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 06/14/2018)
2018-06-15MINUTE ORDER. Upon consideration of the Plaintiff's 13 Notice of Voluntary Dismissal In Part, and the Government's 14 Notice withdrawing its 12 Motion to Dismiss In Part, Count Four of the 4 Complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice, and all claims against U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue are DISMISSED without prejudice. The Government shall file an answer on or before June 28, 2018. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 6/15/2018. (lctnm2) (Entered: 06/15/2018)
2018-06-18Set/Reset Deadlines: Government's answer due by 6/28/2018. (hmc) (Entered: 06/18/2018)
2018-06-2815ANSWER to Complaint by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.(Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 06/28/2018)
2018-07-1716NOTICE of Appearance by Kimberly Denise Ockene on behalf of All Plaintiffs (Ockene, Kimberly) (Entered: 07/17/2018)
2018-07-2517Joint STATUS REPORT by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES. (Friend, Laura) (Entered: 07/25/2018)
2018-07-26MINUTE ORDER. Upon consideration of the parties' 17 Joint Status Report, the Court adopts the briefing scheduled proposed therein. Defendants shall file their Motion for Summary Judgment by September 7, 2018; Plaintiff shall file its Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and its Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by November 2, 2018; Defendants shall file their Response to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, and Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment by November 29, 2018; and Plaintiff shall file its Reply to Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by December 20, 2018. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 7/26/2018. (lctnm2) (Entered: 07/26/2018)
2018-07-27Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment due by 9/7/2018. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and its Cross-Motion due by 11/2/2018. Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion and Reply in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment due by 11/29/2018. Plaintiff's Reply in support of its Cross-Motion due by 12/20/2018. (hmc) (Entered: 07/27/2018)
2018-09-0718MOTION for Summary Judgment by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order, # 2 Declaration, # 3 Exhibit 1, # 4 Exhibit 2, # 5 Exhibit 3, # 6 Exhibit 4, # 7 Exhibit 5, # 8 Exhibit 6, # 9 Exhibit 7, # 10 Exhibit 8, # 11 Exhibit 9, # 12 Exhibit 10, # 13 Exhibit 11, # 14 Exhibit 12, # 15 Exhibit 13, # 16 Exhibit 14, # 17 Exhibit 15, # 18 Exhibit 16)(Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 09/07/2018)
2018-11-0219Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Debra L. Leahy, # 2 Declaration of John Goodwin, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 11/02/2018)
2018-11-0220Memorandum in opposition to re 18 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Debra L. Leahy, # 2 Declaration of John Goodwin, # 3 Text of Proposed Order)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 11/02/2018)
2018-11-2121Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Summary Judgment Briefs by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, SONNY PURDUE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 11/21/2018)
2018-11-27MINUTE ORDER granting 21 Consent Motion for Extension of Time to File Summary Judgment Briefs. Defendants shall file their opposition to Plaintiff's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment no later than December 13, 2018. It is further ordered that Plaintiffs shall file any reply no later than January 24, 2019. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 11/27/2018. (lctnm2) (Entered: 11/27/2018)
2018-11-28Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendants' opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/13/2018. Plaintiff's reply due by 1/24/2019. (hmc) (Entered: 11/28/2018)
2018-12-1322REPLY to opposition to motion re 18 MOTION for Summary Judgment and Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment filed by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts (Response), # 2 Declaration)(Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 12/13/2018)
2018-12-1323Memorandum in opposition to re 19 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment and Reply in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment filed by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts (Response), # 2 Declaration)(Kolsky, Joshua) (Entered: 12/13/2018)
2018-12-1824NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by Paul Cirino on behalf of All Defendants Substituting for attorney Joshua M. Kolsky (Cirino, Paul) (Entered: 12/18/2018)
2019-01-2425REPLY to opposition to motion re 19 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES. (Friend, Laura) (Entered: 01/24/2019)
2019-02-1326ORDER. It is hereby ordered that on or before March 6, 2019, the Defendant shall file a Sur-Reply addressing the Plaintiffs argument that the Court may not consider paragraphs five through eleven of Tonya G. Woods's supplemental declaration, ECF No. 23-2. The Defendant may also file additional declarations or other admissible evidence addressing how releasing the information at issue may potentially cause unwanted contact, harassment, and stigma. If the Defendant submits additional declarations or other evidence, it is further ordered that the Plaintiff may respond no later than March 20, 2019. See attached order for details. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 2/13/2019. (lctnm2) (Entered: 02/13/2019)
2019-02-14Set/Reset Deadlines: APHIS' Sur-Reply due by 3/6/2019. Humane Society's Response due by 3/20/2019. (hmc) (Entered: 02/14/2019)
2019-03-0627SURREPLY to re 18 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. (Cirino, Paul) (Entered: 03/06/2019)
2019-04-10MINUTE ORDER. The parties are hereby ordered to appear for a Motions Hearing on the Defendant's 18 Motion for Summary Judgment and the Plaintiff's 19 Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment on April 30, 2019, at 10 am in Courtroom 2 before Judge Trevor N. McFadden. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 04/10/2019. (lctnm2) (Entered: 04/10/2019)
2019-04-10Set/Reset Hearings: Motion Hearing set for 4/30/2019 at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 2 before Judge Trevor N. McFadden. (hmc) (Entered: 04/10/2019)
2019-04-2328NOTICE of Appearance by Anna Elizabeth Frostic on behalf of HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES (Frostic, Anna) (Entered: 04/23/2019)
2019-04-26MINUTE ORDER. The Motions Hearing set for April 30, 2019 is hereby rescheduled for May 2, 2019 at 10 am in Courtroom 2 before Judge Trevor N. McFadden. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 04/26/2019. (lctnm2) (Entered: 04/26/2019)
2019-04-26Set/Reset Hearings: Motion Hearing rescheduled for 5/2/2019 at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 2 before Judge Trevor N. McFadden. (hmc) (Entered: 04/26/2019)
2019-05-02Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Trevor N. McFadden: Motion Hearing held on 5/2/2019 re 18 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE and 19 Cross MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES. Matter taken under advisement. (Court Reporter: Patricia Kaneshiro-Miller.) (hmc) (Entered: 05/02/2019)
2019-06-0329TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS before Judge Trevor N. McFadden held on May 2, 2019; Page Numbers: 1-50. Date of Issuance:June 3, 2019. Court Reporter/Transcriber Patricia A Kaneshiro-Miller, Telephone number 202-354-3243, Tape Number: Patricia_Kaneshiro-Miller@dcd.uscourts.gov. 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 6/24/2019. Redacted Transcript Deadline set for 7/4/2019. Release of Transcript Restriction set for 9/1/2019.(pk) (Entered: 06/03/2019)
2019-06-0330MEMORANDUM OPINION re the Defendants' 18 Motion for Summary Judgment and the Plaintiff's 19 Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 06/03/2019. (lctnm2) (Entered: 06/03/2019)
2019-06-0331ORDER granting in part and denying in part 18 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 19 Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth in the accompanying 30 Memorandum Opinion, the Defendants' 18 Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part. It is further ordered that the Plaintiff's 19 Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 06/03/2019. (lctnm2) (Entered: 06/03/2019)
2019-06-1132Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Motion for Fee Recovery by HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Friend, Laura) (Entered: 06/11/2019)
2019-06-1133ORDER granting 32 Motion for Extension of Time to File. Upon consideration of the parties 32 Joint Motion for Extension of Deadline to File Motion for Fee Recovery, the Plaintiffs deadline for filing a motion for recovery of attorneys fees and costs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(B)(i) is extended as detailed in the attached order. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 06/11/2019. (lctnm2) (Entered: 06/11/2019)
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