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Case TitleTHE WOLK LAW FIRM v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD
DistrictEastern District of Pennsylvania
CityPhiladelphia
Case Number2:2019cv01401
Date Filed2019-04-02
Date Closed2019-10-10
JudgeHONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE
PlaintiffTHE WOLK LAW FIRM
also known as ARTHUR ALAN WOLK ASSOCIATES
Case DescriptionThe Wolk Law Firm submitted FOIA requests on behalf of clients to the National Transportation Safety Board for records concerning investigations of fatal airplane crashes by NTSB. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, the Wolk Law Firm filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit

DefendantUNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Opinion/Order [22]
Opinion/Order [23]
Opinion/Order [24]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in Pennsylvania has ruled that the Wolk Law Firm, representing a number of victims in suits involving fatal airplane accidents, failed to show that it was entitled to access to wreckage and cockpit videos under the Administrative Procedures Act. In response to its FOIA requests to the NTSB, the agency told Wolk that wreckage was not considered an agency record under FOIA and that cockpit videos were exempt. Wolk then pursued a claim under the APA, contending that the agency's refusal to comply with its subpoenas to grant access violated the statute. The court first found that Wolk could bring such a claim. The court pointed out that "FOIA provides for the production of 'records.' Records include videos, but cockpit videos are exempt from production. As [another judge in the district] noted in a similar action, 'wreckage itself cannot be the subject matter of a FOIA request because it is not an 'agency record' that is subject to FOIA.' Because FOIA does not provide an 'adequate remedy' to obtain cockpit videos and wreckage, an NTSB refusal to provide these materials is subject to judicial review." However, the court explained that "a court may only compel the NTSB to produce these materials if its withholding of them was 'arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.' This standard 'is narrow, and a court is not to substitute its judgement for that of the agency.'" The court then indicated that "the NTSB's refusal to produce the cockpit videos was not arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion. Cockpit videos are statutorily exempt." As to access to wreckage, the court observed that while the NTSB asserted exclusive authority to inspect aircraft crash wreckage, the agency "assured Wolk that it would preserve all evidence related to the crash, consistent with the requirements of its investigation. It reminded Wolk that the results of the investigation would be released publicly as the conclusion of its investigation."
Issues: Litigation - Jurisdiction - Failure to State a Claim
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2019-04-021COMPLAINT against UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (Filing fee $400.00 receipt number PPE195890.), filed by THE WOLK LAW FIRM. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Designation Form, # 3 Case Management Track Form)(kw, ) (Entered: 04/03/2019)
2019-04-02(3) Summons Issued as to UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General. Forwarded To: counsel on 4/3/19. (kw, ) (Entered: 04/03/2019)
2019-04-082Praecipe for Alias Summons by THE WOLK LAW FIRM. (DEVERS, CYNTHIA) (Entered: 04/08/2019)
2019-04-081 Summons Issued as to UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD forwarded to Plaintiff's Counsel on 4/8/19. (rf, ) (Entered: 04/09/2019)
2019-04-113Acceptance of Service by U.S. Attorney Re: accepted summons and complaint on behalf of the United States Attorney (only). (sg, ) (Entered: 04/12/2019)
2019-04-264AFFIDAVIT of Service re: served Complaint upon Office of General Counsel, NTSB by Certified Mail on April 10, 2019 (DEVERS, CYNTHIA) (Entered: 04/26/2019)
2019-04-265AFFIDAVIT of Service re: served Complaint upon U.S. Attorney's Office by Certified Mail on April 10, 2019 (DEVERS, CYNTHIA) (Entered: 04/26/2019)
2019-04-266AFFIDAVIT of Service re: served Complaint upon William Barr, Esquire, Attorney General of US by Certified Mail on April 18, 2019 (DEVERS, CYNTHIA) (Entered: 04/26/2019)
2019-05-067NOTICE of Appearance by MICHAEL S. MISKA on behalf of THE WOLK LAW FIRM with Certificate of Service(MISKA, MICHAEL) (Entered: 05/06/2019)
2019-05-318STIPULATION to Amend Complaint by THE WOLK LAW FIRM. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Exhibit D, # 5 Exhibit E, # 6 Exhibit F, # 7 Exhibit G, # 8 Exhibit H, # 9 Exhibit I, # 10 Exhibit J, # 11 Exhibit K, # 12 Exhibit L)(DEVERS, CYNTHIA) (ATTY TO RESUBMIT AMENDED COMPLAINT IN HARD COPY) Modified on 6/3/2019 (md). (Entered: 05/31/2019)
2019-06-039AMENDED COMPLAINT against UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD filed by THE WOLK LAW FIRM, EXHIBITS. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Exhibit, # 4 Exhibit, # 5 Exhibit, # 6 Exhibit, # 7 Exhibit, # 8 Exhibit, # 9 Exhibit, # 10 Exhibit, # 11 Exhibit, # 12 Exhibit)(rf, ) (Entered: 06/04/2019)
2019-06-1810ORDER THAT THIS CASE IS REFERRED TO THE ASSIGNMENT CLERK FOR REASSIGNMENT BY RANDOM SELECTION IN THE SAME MANNER AS IF THE CASE WERE A NEWLY FILED CASE, ETC. SIGNED BY HONORABLE EDUARDO C. ROBRENO ON 06/18/2019. 06/18/2019 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(nds) (Entered: 06/18/2019)
2019-06-1911ORDER THAT THIS CASE IS REASSIGNED FROM HONORABLE EDUARDO C. ROBRENO TO HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE FOR ALL FURTHER PROCEEDINGS. SIGNED BY CLERK OF COURT KATE BARKMAN, CLERK OF COURT ON 6/18/19. 6/20/19 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED. (va, ) (Entered: 06/20/2019)
2019-06-2612ORDER THAT PRETRIAL CONFERENCE SET FOR 7/16/2019 09:30 AM. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 6/26/19. 6/26/19 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(rf, ) (Entered: 06/26/2019)
2019-07-0313ORDER THAT DEFENDANT SHALL RESPOND TO THE COMPLAINT NO LATER THAN 7/19/19. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 7/3/19. 7/3/19 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(rf, ) (Entered: 07/03/2019)
2019-07-1014Report Of Rule 26(f) Meeting by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD. (SMITH, STACEY) (Entered: 07/10/2019)
2019-07-1615Minute Entry - Report of Rule 16 Conference for proceedings held before HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE and all counsel on 7/16/19. (kw, ) (Entered: 07/17/2019)
2019-07-1916MOTION to Dismiss (Partially) filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD.Memorandum, Certificate of Service.(SMITH, STACEY) (Entered: 07/19/2019)
2019-07-1917MOTION to Stay Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C) filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD.Memorandum, Certificate of Service. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1)(SMITH, STACEY) (Entered: 07/19/2019)
2019-08-0218RESPONSE to Motion re 17 MOTION to Stay Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C) filed by THE WOLK LAW FIRM. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Exhibit D, # 5 Exhibit E, # 6 Exhibit F, # 7 Exhibit G, # 8 Exhibit H, # 9 Exhibit I, # 10 Exhibit J, # 11 Exhibit K, # 12 Exhibit L, # 13 Exhibit M, # 14 Exhibit N, # 15 Exhibit O, # 16 Exhibit P, # 17 Exhibit Q, # 18 Exhibit R)(MISKA, MICHAEL) (Entered: 08/02/2019)
2019-08-0219RESPONSE to Motion re 16 MOTION to Dismiss (Partially) filed by THE WOLK LAW FIRM. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Exhibit B, # 3 Exhibit C, # 4 Exhibit D, # 5 Exhibit E, # 6 Exhibit F, # 7 Exhibit G, # 8 Exhibit H, # 9 Exhibit I, # 10 Exhibit J, # 11 Exhibit K, # 12 Exhibit L, # 13 Exhibit M, # 14 Exhibit N, # 15 Exhibit O, # 16 Exhibit P, # 17 Exhibit Q, # 18 Exhibit R)(MISKA, MICHAEL) (Entered: 08/02/2019)
2019-08-0920RESPONSE in Support re 16 MOTION to Dismiss (Partially) 9 First Amended Complaint filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD. (SMITH, STACEY) (Entered: 08/09/2019)
2019-08-0921RESPONSE in Support re 17 MOTION to Stay Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C) filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD. (SMITH, STACEY) (Entered: 08/09/2019)
2019-10-1022MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 10/10/19. 10/10/19 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(rf, ) (Entered: 10/10/2019)
2019-10-1023MEMORANDUM AND ORDER THAT MOTION TO PARTIALLY DISMISS (DOC. 16) IS GRANTED. FURTHER ORDERED THAT COUNTS I AND II OF THE PLAINTIFFS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT ARE DISMISSED. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 10/10/19. 10/10/19 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(rf, ) (Entered: 10/10/2019)
2019-10-1024MEMORANDUM AND ORDER THAT ALL PROCEEDINGS ARE STAYED. THE CLERK SHALL PLACE CASE IN SUSPENSE. DEFENDANT SHALL FILE A STATUS REPORT REGARDING THE PLAINTIFFS FOIA REQUESTS EVERY 60 DAYS. WITHIN 10 DAYS OF FINALLY PROCESSING THE PLAINTIFFS FOIA REQUESTS, DEFENDANT SHALL ADVISE THE COURT THAT IT HAS DONE SO. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 10/10/19. 10/10/19 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(rf, ) (Entered: 10/10/2019)
2019-12-0925STATUS REPORT Pursuant to the Court's October 10, 2019, Order by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD. (SMITH, STACEY) (Entered: 12/09/2019)
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