Skip to content

Case Detail

[Subscribe to updates]
Case TitleAMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2018cv00944
Date Filed2018-04-23
Date Closed2018-12-04
JudgeJudge James E. Boasberg
PlaintiffAMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE
Case DescriptionAmerican Center for Law and Justice submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records concerning the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. ACLJ also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, denied ACLJ's request for expedited processing, and deferred a decision on ACLJ's request for a fee waiver. After hearing nothing further from the agency, ACLJ filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Opinion/Order [21]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge James Boasberg has ruled that the Department of State properly withheld portions of a five-page report on the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East under Exemption 1 (national security). The American Center for Law and Justice requested a State Department report concerning UNRWA aid to Palestinian refugees. The agency disclosed most of the five-page report but withheld portions under Exemption 1. ACLJ filed suit, challenging both the substantive and procedural classification of the report. The original report was classified as confidential by Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. To support its classification claim, State also provided an affidavit from Eric Stein, the FOIA Officer, attesting that the withheld portions of the report were properly classified. ACLJ argued that Richard's original classification was improper because it did not show that she had complied with the classification procedures and that she did not provide an adequate rationale for classifying the report. Boasberg rejected both claims. He noted that "the [Executive Order on Classification] says nothing about a classifier's need to 'make certain' that procedural requirements were met. As State correctly asserts, moreover, there are no magic words required to meet this standard. Rather, in the absence of bad faith, general statements of procedural compliance may suffice." ACLJ also claimed that Richard had only cited § 1.4(d) pertaining to foreign relations when she classified the report while Stein had added § 1.4(b) which pertained to foreign government information as a second reason when he reclassified the report, suggesting that Richard's original classification decision was incorrect. Boasberg observed that "this makes little sense. The fact that the original Report held one fewer classification rationale has no bearing on whether the information was properly classified originally." But ACLJ suggested that Richard's single rationale meant that she had improperly underestimated the harm to national security. Boasberg pointed out that "this position holds no water. Plaintiff misinterprets the Order to mean that Richard must have articulated possible threats initially. ACLJ cites no caselaw to support this proposition, and with good reason " it does not exist. State properly asserts that the determining factor is whether a present-day original classification authority (in this case, Stein) is able to certify, based on his own independent review of the information, that it presently meets the standards for classification." ACLJ challenged Stein's personal knowledge of the need to classify the report as well as his rationale. Referring to the "plethora" of reasons Stein provided for his classification decision, Boasberg noted that Stein's "declaration also explains specific harms that would likely occur as a result of the information's release. . .These statements are thus sufficient because they demonstrate that 'the withheld information logically falls within the claimed exemptions' " namely the ones identified in both § 1.4(b) and § 1.4(d)." ACLJ argued that a letter from members of the House of Representatives urging President Trump to declassify the report undercut State's decision that it remained properly classified. Boasberg concluded otherwise, noting that "it is a dangerous proposition indeed that executive-branch determinations should be overruled by a simple missive from a few members of the legislature. Such a theory would overturn years of deference to executive affidavits in matters of national security and potentially implicate separation of powers. It is the Executive, not Congress and not the Court, who has the expertise to make such determinations."
Issues: Exemption 1 - Properly classified, Exemption 1 - Harm to national security
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2018-04-231COMPLAINT against UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5436471) filed by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons Dept of State, # 3 Summons US Atty General, # 4 Summons US Atty - DC)(Gammill, Carly) (Attachment 1 replaced on 4/25/2018) (ztth). (Entered: 04/23/2018)
2018-04-232Corporate Disclosure Statement by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE. (Gammill, Carly) (Entered: 04/23/2018)
2018-04-233NOTICE of Appearance by Benjamin Paul Sisney on behalf of AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (Sisney, Benjamin) (Entered: 04/23/2018)
2018-04-23Case Assigned to Judge James E. Boasberg. (zsth) (Entered: 04/25/2018)
2018-04-254SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Notice and Consent)(zsth) (Entered: 04/25/2018)
2018-04-275RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE served on 4/27/2018 (Gammill, Carly) (Entered: 04/27/2018)
2018-04-276RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 4/27/18. (Gammill, Carly) (Entered: 04/27/2018)
2018-04-277RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 4/27/2018. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 5/27/2018. (Gammill, Carly) (Entered: 04/27/2018)
2018-05-108NOTICE of Appearance by Denise M. Clark on behalf of All Defendants (Clark, Denise) (Entered: 05/10/2018)
2018-05-259ANSWER to Complaint by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE.(Clark, Denise) (Entered: 05/25/2018)
2018-05-29MINUTE ORDER: The Court ORDERS that the parties shall meet, confer, and submit a joint proposed briefing schedule by June 12, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 5/29/18. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 05/29/2018)
2018-05-29Set/Reset Deadlines: Parties shall Meet, Confer, and submit a Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule by 6/12/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 05/29/2018)
2018-06-1210Joint MEET AND CONFER STATEMENT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Clark, Denise) Modified on 6/14/2018 to correct docket event/text (jf). (Entered: 06/12/2018)
2018-06-13MINUTE ORDER: The Court ORDERS that: 1) State shall process the single document sought at the rate of 300 pages per month; and 2) The parties shall submit a further joint status report by July 16, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 6/13/18. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 06/13/2018)
2018-06-13Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 7/16/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 06/13/2018)
2018-07-1611Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Clark, Denise) (Entered: 07/16/2018)
2018-07-17MINUTE ORDER: The Court ADOPTS the parties' 11 status report and ORDERS that: 1) Defendant shall file a motion for summary judgment on or before August 17, 2018; 2) Plaintiff shall file its response on or before September 17, 2018; and 3) Defendant shall file any reply on or before October 1, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 7/17/18. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 07/17/2018)
2018-07-17Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 8/17/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 9/17/2018. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 10/1/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 07/19/2018)
2018-08-1512NOTICE of Appearance by Abigail A. Southerland on behalf of AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 08/15/2018)
2018-08-1613NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF APPEARANCE as to AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE. Attorney Carly F. Gammill terminated. (Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 08/16/2018)
2018-08-1714Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Clark, Denise) (Entered: 08/17/2018)
2018-08-20MINUTE ORDER GRANTING 14 Motion for Extension of Time to File. The Court ORDERS that Defendant shall file its Motion for Summary Judgment by August 20, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 8/20/18. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 08/20/2018)
2018-08-20Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 8/20/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 08/20/2018)
2018-08-2015MOTION for Summary Judgment by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Exhibit, # 4 Statement of Facts, # 5 Exhibit, # 6 Text of Proposed Order)(Clark, Denise) (Entered: 08/20/2018)
2018-09-1716Memorandum in opposition to re 15 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration, # 2 Exhibit A, # 3 Statement of Facts, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Southerland, Abigail) (Entered: 09/17/2018)
2018-10-0117REPLY to opposition to motion re 15 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE. (Clark, Denise) (Entered: 10/01/2018)
2018-10-04MINUTE ORDER: The Court ORDERS that the Government shall produce to the Court for in camera review by October 9, 2018, clean and redacted copies of the Report at issue. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 10/4/2018. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 10/04/2018)
2018-10-04Set/Reset Deadlines: In-Camera Review due by 10/9/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 10/04/2018)
2018-10-0418Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to Submit Report by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Clark, Denise) (Entered: 10/04/2018)
2018-10-05MINUTE ORDER GRANTING Unopposed 18 Motion for Extension of Time. The Court ORDERS that Defendant shall submit the Report on or before October 16, 2018. So ORDERED by Judge James E. Boasberg on 10/5/2018. (lcjeb1) (Entered: 10/05/2018)
2018-10-05Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant shall submit the Report on or before 10/16/2018. (znbn) (Entered: 10/05/2018)
2018-10-1619NOTICE of the Submission of the Report by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE (Clark, Denise) (Entered: 10/16/2018)
2018-12-0420ORDER GRANTING Defendant's 15 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 12/4/2018. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 12/04/2018)
2018-12-0421MEMORANDUM OPINION re 20 Order. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 12/4/2018. (lcjeb2) (Entered: 12/04/2018)
Hide Docket Events
by FOIA Project Staff
Skip to toolbar