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Case TitleBUZZFEED INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2018cv01535
Date Filed2018-06-27
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Christopher R. Cooper
PlaintiffBUZZFEED INC.
Case DescriptionBuzzfeed, Inc. submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Education for records concerning letters sent to six specific schools regarding Title IX investigations at their schools. Buzzfeed also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and granted Buzzfeed's request for a fee waiver. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Buzzfeed filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Opinion/Order [31]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Christopher Cooper has ruled that the Department of Education has not justified its redactions in resolution letters issued by the Office of Civil Rights of investigations of whether school districts are adequately responding to sexual assault complaints from students. BuzzFeed requested resolution letters sent to 14 separate school districts across the country. The agency redacted the letters under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). BuzzFeed agreed that some of the information was properly subject to those exemptions but argued that the agency's redactions were too heavy-handed. After reviewing the letters in camera, Cooper largely agreed. Cooper noted that since BuzzFeed acknowledged that the letters were compiled for law enforcement purposes he would evaluate them under the lower standard of Exemption 7(C) only. He noted that "while some of the redactions are appropriate, others are improperly broad." He explained that "for example, the resolution letters to the Imagine Prep School in Arizona and Adams County School District 12 in Colorado, both prepared by an official at OCR Denver, were minimally redacted and appear to appropriately balance the privacy interests of individuals involved with the public's interest in learning how OCR responded to the determination complaint and what its investigation found." He pointed out that "on the other hand, the letters to East St. Louis, Illinois School District 189 and the Baraboo School District in Wisconsin, for example, -- both redacted by an official in OCR's Chicago office " have pages-long redactions. These redactions hide details too general to allow for identification of individuals involved, including information abut the investigation that is not Personally Identifiable Information at all." He indicated that "if revealed, these details would illuminate OCR's work but would not risk identifying those involved in the underlying incidents." Sending the case back to the agency to narrow its redactions where necessary, Cooper observed that "BuzzFeed (and the public) has a right to examine how OCR is conducting these sensitive investigations. Exemption 6 and 7(C) call for careful balancing when redacting information, demanding a scalpel rather than a buzzsaw."
Issues: Segregability - Disclosure of all non-exempt records
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2018-06-271COMPLAINT against U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5558966) filed by BUZZFEED INC.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Civil Cover Sheet, # 5 Summons (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 06/27/2018)
2018-06-272NOTICE of Appearance by Matthew Topic on behalf of BUZZFEED INC. (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 06/27/2018)
2018-06-29Case Assigned to Judge Christopher R. Cooper. (zsb) (Entered: 06/29/2018)
2018-06-293SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: # 1 Notice and Consent) (zmd) (Entered: 06/29/2018)
2018-07-114NOTICE of Appearance by Matthew Lynn Schafer on behalf of BUZZFEED INC. (Schafer, Matthew) (Entered: 07/11/2018)
2018-07-235RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION served on 7/13/2018 (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 07/23/2018)
2018-07-236RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 7/16/2018. (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 07/23/2018)
2018-07-237RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 7/16/2018. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 8/15/2018. (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 07/23/2018)
2018-08-158Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Answer re 1 Complaint, by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 08/15/2018)
2018-08-16MINUTE ORDER granting 8 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer. It is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's answer is due on or before September 7, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 08/16/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 08/16/2018)
2018-08-16Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer due by 9/7/2018 (lsj) (Entered: 08/16/2018)
2018-09-069ANSWER to Complaint by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.(Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 09/06/2018)
2018-09-06MINUTE ORDER: Before the Court in this FOIA case are a complaint and an answer. It is hereby ORDERED that the parties promptly confer and file a joint proposed schedule for briefing or disclosure by September 21, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 09/06/2018. (lccrc3) (Entered: 09/06/2018)
2018-09-06Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule due by 9/21/2018 (lsj) (Entered: 09/06/2018)
2018-09-2010PROPOSED BRIEFING SCHEDULE by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. (Hendry, Melanie) Modified event title on 9/24/2018 (znmw). (Entered: 09/20/2018)
2018-09-20VACATED PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER ENTERED 11/16/18.....MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of the parties' 10 Joint Status Report, it is hereby ORDERED that the parties shall adhere to the briefing schedule as follows: Defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be filed on or before November 16, 2018; Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment and opposition shall be filed on or before December 17, 2018; Defendant's opposition and reply shall be filed on or before January 25, 2019; Plaintiff's reply shall be filed on or before February 15, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 09/20/2018. (lccrc3) Modified on 11/19/2018 (zlsj). (Entered: 09/20/2018)
2018-09-21Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 11/16/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 12/17/2018. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 1/25/2019. Replies due by 2/15/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 09/21/2018)
2018-11-1511Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Summary Judgment Motion by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 11/15/2018)
2018-11-16VACATED PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER ENTERED 12/7/2018.....MINUTE ORDER granting 11 Motion for Extension of Time to File and vacating the briefing schedule entered on September 20, 2018. The parties shall adhere to a briefing schedule as follows: Defendant shall file its motion for summary judgment on or before December 7, 2018; Plaintiff shall file its opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before January 7, 2019; Defendant shall file its reply and opposition on or before February 15, 2019; Plaintiff shall file its reply on or before March 8, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 11/16/2018. (lccrc3) Modified on 12/10/2018 (zlsj). (Entered: 11/16/2018)
2018-11-19Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 12/7/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 1/7/2019. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 2/15/2019. Replies due by 3/8/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 11/19/2018)
2018-12-0612Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Summary Judgment Motion by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 12/06/2018)
2018-12-07VACATED PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER ENTERED 12/21/2018.....MINUTE ORDER granting Defendant's 12 Motion for Extension of Time to File and vacating the briefing schedule entered on 11/16/2018. The parties shall adhere to the following briefing schedule: Defendant shall file its motion for summary judgment on or before December 21, 2018; Plaintiff shall file its opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before January 22, 2019; Defendant shall file its reply and opposition on or before March 1, 2019; Plaintiff shall file its reply on or before March 22, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 12/07/2018. (lccrc3) Modified on 12/21/2018 (zlsj). (Entered: 12/07/2018)
2018-12-10Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 12/21/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 1/22/2019. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 3/1/2019. Responses due by 3/22/2019 (lsj) (Entered: 12/10/2018)
2018-12-2113MOTION for Extension of Time to File Summary Judgment Motion by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 12/21/2018)
2018-12-21VACATED PURSUANT TO ORDER FILED ON 2/7/2019.....MINUTE ORDER granting Defendant's 13 Motion for Extension of Time and vacating the briefing schedule entered on 12/7/2018. The parties shall adhere to the following briefing schedule, and no further extensions shall be granted to Defendant: Defendant shall file its motion for summary judgment on or before February 6, 2019; Plaintiff shall file its opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before March 6, 2019; Defendant shall file its reply and opposition on or before April 5, 2019; Plaintiff shall file its reply on or before April 26, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 12/21/2018. (lccrc3) Modified on 2/7/2019 (znbn). (Entered: 12/21/2018)
2018-12-21Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 2/6/2019. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 3/6/2019. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 4/5/2019. Plaintiff's Reply due by 4/26/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 12/21/2018)
2019-02-0514Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Motion for Summary Judgment , Unopposed MOTION to Modify Briefing Schedule by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Lyons, Jane) (Entered: 02/05/2019)
2019-02-07VACATED PURSUANT TO MINUTE ORDER ENTERED 4/16/2019.....MINUTE ORDER granting 14 Motion to Modify Briefing Schedule and vacating the schedule entered on December 21, 2018. The parties shall adhere to the following briefing schedule: Defendant shall file its motion for summary judgment on or before February 13, 2019; Plaintiff shall file its opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment on or before March 13, 2019; Defendant shall file its reply and opposition on or before April 12, 2019; Plaintiff shall file its reply on or before May 3, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 02/07/2019. (lccrc3) Modified on 4/16/2019 (zlsj). (Entered: 02/07/2019)
2019-02-07Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 2/13/2019. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 3/13/2019. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 4/12/2019. Replies due by 5/3/2019. (znbn) (Entered: 02/07/2019)
2019-02-1315MOTION for Summary Judgment by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Declaration of Kristine Minami, # 3 Declaration of Lauren E.M. Skerrett, # 4 Declaration of Robert Carey, # 5 Declaration of David R. Sumners)(Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 02/13/2019)
2019-02-2816NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL OF APPEARANCE as to BUZZFEED INC.. Attorney Matthew Lynn Schafer terminated. (Schafer, Matthew) (Entered: 02/28/2019)
2019-03-1317MOTION for Summary Judgment Plaintiff's Combined Cross Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Defendant's Summary Judgment Motion and in Support of Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by BUZZFEED INC. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Facts, # 2 Exhibit A - Imagine Prep, # 3 Exhibit B - Adams County, # 4 Exhibit C - East St. Louis, # 5 Exhibit D - Paducah, # 6 Exhibit E - Massachusetts College, # 7 Exhibit F - Baraboo, # 8 Exhibit G -Topic Declaration, # 9 Text of Proposed Order Proposed Order)(Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 03/13/2019)
2019-03-1318RESPONSE re 15 MOTION for Summary Judgment Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts filed by BUZZFEED INC.. (Topic, Matthew) (See also Docket Entry 17 to view opposition). Modified on 3/18/2019 (znmw). (Entered: 03/13/2019)
2019-03-2519LCvR 26.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by BUZZFEED INC. (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 03/25/2019)
2019-04-1120Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 04/11/2019)
2019-04-16MINUTE ORDER granting 20 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response and vacating the briefing schedule entered on February 7, 2019. Defendant shall file its Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Reply on or before May 3, 2019; Plaintiff shall file its Reply on or before May 24, 2019. No further extensions will be granted. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 04/16/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 04/16/2019)
2019-04-16Set/Reset Deadlines: Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 5/3/2019. Replies due by 5/24/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 04/16/2019)
2019-05-0321Memorandum in opposition to re 17 MOTION for Summary Judgment Plaintiff's Combined Cross Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Defendant's Summary Judgment Motion and in Support of Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary J filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. (Attachments: # 1 Statement of Facts, # 2 Declaration of Karen L. Mayo-Tall)(Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 05/03/2019)
2019-05-0322REPLY to opposition to motion re 15 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Karen L. Mayo-Tall)(Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 05/03/2019)
2019-05-2123REPLY to opposition to motion re 17 MOTION for Summary Judgment Plaintiff's Combined Cross Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Defendant's Summary Judgment Motion and in Support of Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary J filed by BUZZFEED INC.. (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 05/21/2019)
2019-06-1324ORDER requiring the Defendant to provide records for in camera review and to provide supplemental declarations. See full Order for details. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 06/13/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 06/13/2019)
2019-06-13Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's In-Camera Submission due by 6/20/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 06/13/2019)
2019-06-2725NOTICE of Submission for In Camera Review by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION re 24 Order (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 06/27/2019)
2019-06-2726Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Supplemental Declaration and Submit Documents for In Camera Review by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 06/27/2019)
2019-07-01MINUTE ORDER granting 26 Motion for Extension of Time to File. Defendant shall file the supplemental declarations described in the Court's 24 Order on or before July 10, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 07/01/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 07/01/2019)
2019-07-02Set/Reset Deadlines: Supplemental Declarations due by 7/10/2019. (lsj) (Entered: 07/02/2019)
2019-07-1027Unopposed MOTION for Order for Leave to Submit Declarations Ex Parte and In Camera by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Attachments: # 1 Declaration Kristine Minami, # 2 Declaration David R. Sumners (Redacted), # 3 Declaration Lauren E.M. Skerrett (Redacted), # 4 Declaration Robert Carey (Redacted))(Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 07/10/2019)
2019-07-10MINUTE ORDER granting 27 Motion for Leave to file declarations ex parte and in camera . Defendant may deliver to Chambers the unredacted versions of the declarations appended as exhibits to its 27 Motion. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 07/10/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 07/10/2019)
2019-07-1028NOTICE of Submission for In Camera Review by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Hendry, Melanie) (Entered: 07/10/2019)
2019-08-0629NOTICE of Appearance by Merrick Jason Wayne on behalf of BUZZFEED INC. (Wayne, Merrick) (Entered: 08/06/2019)
2019-08-0730NOTICE OF SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL by John Moustakas on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION Substituting for attorney Melanie Hendry (Moustakas, John) (Entered: 08/07/2019)
2019-08-0731OPINION AND ORDER denying without prejudice 15 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; denying without prejudice 17 Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment; and remanding the matter to the Defendant. See full Order for details. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 08/07/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 08/07/2019)
2019-08-08Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 9/23/2019 (lsj) (Entered: 08/08/2019)
2019-09-2332Joint MOTION for Extension of Time to File Joint Status Report by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Moustakas, John) (Entered: 09/23/2019)
2019-09-23MINUTE ORDER granting 32 Motion for Extension of Time to File Joint Status Report. The next report shall be filed on or before October 7, 2019. If any disputes remain at that time, the joint status report shall include a schedule for prompt briefing. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 09/23/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 09/23/2019)
2019-09-24Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 10/7/2019 (lsj) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-10-0733Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. (Moustakas, John) (Entered: 10/07/2019)
2019-10-09MINUTE ORDER: In light of 33 Joint Status Report, the parties are hereby ORDERED to submit a further Joint Status Report on or before Thursday, November 7, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 10/9/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 10/09/2019)
2019-10-09Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 11/7/2019 (lsj) (Entered: 10/09/2019)
2019-11-0734Joint STATUS REPORT by BUZZFEED INC.. (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 11/07/2019)
2019-11-08MINUTE ORDER: In light of 34 Joint Status Report, the parties are hereby ORDERED to submit a further Joint Status Report on or before Monday, December 9, 2019. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 11/8/2019. (lccrc3) (Entered: 11/08/2019)
2019-11-08Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 12/9/2019. (znbn) (Entered: 11/08/2019)
2019-12-0935Joint STATUS REPORT by BUZZFEED INC.. (Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 12/09/2019)
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