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Dec 22 14

FOIA Suits Jump In 2014

by Greg Munno

More freedom of information lawsuits were brought against the federal government in fiscal year 2014 than in any year since at least 2001, according to a new analysis of court records by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

A total of 422 Freedom of Information Act suits were filed in federal district court last year compared with 372 in FY 2013 and 387 in FY 2005, the next highest year since 2001. These counts represent all cases where the nature of suit is listed as FOIA, the law that requires federal agencies to disclose records to any person making a written request unless the records fall into one of nine categories of exemption.

Figure 1. FOIA Lawsuits Filed
(Click here for the interactive lawsuit app)

The number of suits filed in federal district court in which the nature of suit is listed as FOIA, for FY 2001 through FY 2014

The number of suits filed in federal district court in which the nature of suit is listed as FOIA, for FY 2001 through FY 2014

The types of people and organizations bringing FOIA suits are diverse and go well beyond news media organizations, who are sometimes assumed to be the leading users of FOIA. In fact, only five FOIA cases were brought by a legacy news organization in FY 2014. All were brought by The New York Times Company, including four in which reporter Charlie Savage is listed as a co-plaintiff. [Documents from all the cases mentioned in this report can be found using the FOIA Project Case Search.]

David McCraw, the Times’ vice president and assistant general counsel, said FOIA was crucial to the paper’s work. “Simply,” he said, “we feel that using this law is an essential part of our mission.”

TRAC issued a report in 2013 on traditional news media’s use of FOIA lawsuits, finding that from FY 2005 through FY 2012, traditional media brought between three and nine FOIA suits a year.

Some newer media organizations and individual reporters are joining the ranks of FOIA filers. For instance, Jason Leopold, a reporter with VICE News, filed eight FOIA suits in FY 2014. Shane Bauer, a reporter for Mother Jones, filed two suits, which the FOIA Project wrote about in a Case Spotlight. Neither Mother Jones nor VICE News were listed as parties in those suits, although Leopold said VICE News has been backing his cases since he became a staff writer there in August.

Also bringing suit in FY 2014 were ProPublica and the company that publishes of the Washington Examiner.

Leopold said that filing FOIA requests has been a regular part of his work as a journalist, first as a freelancer for prominent news outlets, and now for VICE News. He said he is suing more for records than he used to, and finds that agencies are becoming less responsive to FOIA requests.

“I try to be strategic about it,” he said. “Before I joined VICE News, I was literally fronting the cost of these cases on my credit card. I would work-out agreements with news organizations to recoup those costs if I got the documents, so I had to be pretty sure the documents were not exempt.”

Leopold said he has always been surprised by how little FOIA is actually used by journalists. “I often hear that it just takes too much time to get the records,” he said. He combats the delay by focusing on stories import enough that they will rise to the level of news regardless of when he wins the records release. He also builds a pipeline of requests so that he is always receiving records. And if an agency does not respond to him in 20 days,he sues right away, particularly if he is after documents he suspects the agency will not ultimately turn over without a fight.

Leopold remarked on something the FOIA Project also found in examining the lawsuits filed in FY 2014: advocacy groups of various stripes file FOIA suits more often than media. Judicial Watch, for instance, which describes itself as “a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation,” filed more FOIA suits in FY 2014 than anyone, with 34 suits in which it is the plaintiff, and several others on which it is serving as counsel.

Up next would be various chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, with a combined FY 2014 total of 10 FOIA suits, the Electronic Privacy Information Center with 7 suits, and the Energy & Environment Legal Institute and Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, both with 6.

Chris Farrell, director of Research and Investigation for Judicial Watch, said one of the reasons the organization sues so frequently is simply a matter of volume: the organization currently has 2,800 pending open government requests and lawsuits at both the federal and states levels.

“The other reason is that sometimes suing is simply the only way to get the agency to pay attention a request,” Farrell said. He said that’s not true of every agency, and praised the Department of Transportation for being particularly responsive.

Who are the defendants in these suits? The Department of Justice tops the list – as it has done in every year for which the FOIA Project has records. It also had the largest jump in the number of suits filed – from 83 in FY 2013 to 121 in FY 2014. On average, Justice has been hit with 81 FOIA suits a year over the 14 years of data compiled by the FOIA Project. It has been sued under FOIA 101 times per year over the last five fiscal years. Its previous highs were 109 in both FY 2011 and 2012.

The numbers for Justice include its suborganizations, such as the FBI. Knowing exactly what government entity the plaintiff has issue with is difficult because suits often only list the department-level organization, such as Justice, and not the sub-level organization, such as the FBI.

The unit withholding the records was explicitly named as a defendant in 51 of the 121 suits filed against the Justice Department or one of its suborganizations. For these, the FBI was named as a defendant in 21 suits, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys in 16, the Office of Information Policy in 13, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in 10. (Note: Because more than one agency can be sued in the same lawsuit, these numbers add to more than the total of 51.)

The Department of Defense, which had the next highest number of FOIA cases, also showed a sizable jump – from 38 in FY 2013 to 54 during FY 2014. This pushed DOD into second place, surpassing the number of suits filed against the Department of Homeland Security, which was hit with 49 FOIA suits in FY 2014 and 48 in FY 2013.

In FY 2014, specific DOD suborganizations were named in 26 suits, including the Army (named in 10 suits), the National Security Agency (9), and the Navy (5). Specific Homeland Security suborganizations were named 23 times, including Customs and Border Protection (named in 17 suits), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (7), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (5).

About the FOIA Project; About the Data and About this Report

The above analysis is based on federal district court records available at foiaproject.org. This unique website is updated daily and at last count contained more than 22,127 court documents from 6,140 district and appellate court FOIA-related cases.

Please read this important discussion for data definitions and more information about how the FOIA Project captures and processes court records. Two considerations more specific to this report worth mentioning are that (1) entities sued frequently under FOIA typically receive lots of FOIA requests, so the frequency at which they are sued is not necessarily reflective of their compliance with the law, and (2) as we can see in Figure 1, there is a lot of year-to-year fluctuation in the number of FOIA suits filed, so it is unclear whether FY 2014’s increase is evidence of a new trend. As previously reported by the FOIA Project, it appears that FOIA lawsuits have increased during the Obama administration over the levels during the last term of President Bush.

The FOIA Project is administered by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonpartisan data research center that is a joint center of the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. The project depends upon volunteers, gifts, and grants, and its supporters have included the CS Fund/Warsh-Mott Legacy, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies, Stewart Mott Foundation, OpentheGovernment.Org, William B. Wiener Jr. Foundation, JRS Dryfoos Charitable Lead Trust, and the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation.

Dec 18 14

FOIA Activity: 5 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by foiaproj

We have added 5 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between December 6, 2014 and December 13, 2014. These are associated with 5 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  1. CAN 3:2010cv03759The American Civil Liberties Union of North California et al v. Federal Bureau of Investigation
    • December 10, 2014: JOINT STIPULATION AND ORDER AMENDING BRIEFING SCHEDULE. Signed by Judge Richard Seeborg on 12/10/14. (cl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/10/2014)
  2. CAN 3:2011cv00846The Sierra Club et al v. United States Environmental Protection Agency
    • December 8, 2014: ORDER by Judge Maria-Elena James granting [77] Motion for Attorney Fees (cdnS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/8/2014)
  3. DC 1:2014cv00940PAWELSKI v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION et al
    • December 12, 2014: MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on 12/12/14. (ms, )
  4. MOW 6:2013cv03380Marks v. United States Department of Justice
    • December 11, 2014: ORDER AND OPINION (1) GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS OR FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND (2) DIRECTING DEFENDANT TO TO SHOW CAUSE WHY JUDGMENT SHOULD NOT BE ENTERED IN PLAINTIFF'S FAVOR [23] motion to dismiss case. Signed on 12/11/14 by District Judge Ortrie D. Smith. (Order mailed to Plaintiff.) (Matthes, Renea)
  5. NYS 1:2013cv00942Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Department of Interior et al
    • December 11, 2014: OPINION & ORDER #105065 re: [73] MOTION for Summary Judgment on Government's Withholding of Qualitative Analyses Under FOIA Exemption 5. filed by Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., [82] MOTION for Summary Judgment Regarding FO IA Exemption 5 Withholdings. filed by United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management. For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby grants the Government's motion for summary judgment as to the FOIA Exemption 5 claims. The Clerk of Court is respectfully directed to terminate all pending motions and to close this case. (Signed by Judge Paul A. Engelmayer on 12/11/2014) (djc) Modified on 12/15/2014 (ca).
Dec 18 14

30 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by foiaproj

We have added 30 documents from 5 FOIA cases filed between December 7, 2014 and December 13, 2014. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. John Edmond v. United States Department of Justice Office of Information Policy (filed Dec 8, 2014)
    John Edmond submitted a FOIA request for investigative records about himself from the DEA. The agency responded that it could find no records. Edmond appealed the agency’s decision to the Office of Information Policy. OIP upheld DEA’s decision. Edmond then filed suit.
    Issues: Withholding not related to exemption claims
  2. RENNE v. UNITED STATES OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL (filed Dec 8, 2014)
    James Renne submitted a FOIA request to the Office of Special Counsel for a report the agency had prepared that included information about events that took place early on during Renne’s employment with the agency. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Renne filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  3. CITIZENS UNITED v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Dec 10, 2014)
    Citizens United submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for passenger manifests and travel expenses for a number of Special Air Mission flights taken by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Citizens United also requested expedited processing. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and denied Citizens United’s request for expedited processing. Citizens United filed an administrative appeal of the agency’s denial of expedited processing. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Citizens United filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  4. Reyes v. Defense (filed Dec 11, 2014)
    Andres Reyes submitted a FOIA request to the Marines Corps for records concerning its decision to discharge him with a less than honorable discharge. Reyes also submitted a FOIA request to the Navy’s Judge Advocate General for records concerning the investigation that led to his court-martial. After hearing nothing further concerning either request, Reyes filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  5. CENTER FOR DIGITAL DEMOCRACY v. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (filed Dec 11, 2014)
    The Center for Digital Democracy submitted a FOIA request to the Federal Trade Commission for records concerning annual reports submitted under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act rule, such as reports on safe harbor programs. The Center also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and indicated that it would not be able to respond within 20 days. After hearing nothing further from the agency, the Center filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
Dec 11 14

FOIA Activity: 10 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by foiaproj

We have added 10 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between November 30, 2014 and December 6, 2014. These are associated with 10 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  1. CAN 3:1999cv01825TPS Inc. v. Dept of Defense, et al
    • December 3, 2014: NOTICE OF REFERENCE AND ORDER RE BREIFING SCHEDULE re [59] MOTION to Compel filed by Richard Snyder. Opposition/ Responses due by 12/8/2014. Replies due by 12/15/2014. Court will determine if a hearing is necessary after the reply brief has been filed. Signed by Judge Joseph C. Spero on 12/3/14. (klhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/3/2014) Modified on 12/4/2014 (jlmS, COURT STAFF).
  2. CAN 3:2014cv02166American Small Business League v. Department of Defense
    • December 3, 2014: ORDER RE [31] MOTION TO STAY PENDING APPEAL DETERMINATION BY SOLICITOR GENERAL.(whalc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/3/2014)
  3. CAN 4:2012cv00164Electronic Frontier Foundation v. U.S. Department of Transportation
    • December 5, 2014: ORDER GRANTING [48] STIPULATION of Dismissal with Prejudice DISMISSING CASE. Signed by Judge Claudia Wilken on 12/5/2014. (ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/5/2014)
  4. CAN 4:2012cv05581Electronic Frontier Foundation v. U.S. Department of Transportation
    • December 5, 2014: ORDER [32] STIPULATION of Dismissal with Prejudice. Signed by Judge Claudia Wilken on 12/5/2014. (ndr, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/5/2014)
  5. DC 1:2012cv01433GAGNON v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION et al
    • December 3, 2014: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting [31] Plaintiff's motion to expand the record; granting [33] Defendants' motion for leave to file supplemental declaration out of time; denying [34] Plaintiff's motion for leave to pursue discovery and an order for production; granting [35] Plaintiff's motion to file attached documents under seal; giving Plaintiff until January 12, 2015, to respond to Defendants' supplemental filing (see attached order for details). Signed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on 12/3/14.(ah) Modified on 12/4/2014 (zgdf, ).
  6. DC 1:2013cv01091MEZERHANE GOSEN v. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES
    • December 4, 2014: MEMORANDUM OPINION granting in part and denying in part Defendant's [17] Motion for Summary Judgment and denying Plaintiff's [20] Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. See attached document for details. Signed by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on 12/4/2014. (lckbj3)
  7. DC 1:2014cv01264100REPORTERS LLC v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
    • December 3, 2014: MEMORANDUM OPINION granting [13] Siemens's Motion to Intervene; and granting [17] Dr. Waigel's Motion to Intervene. See document for details. Signed by Judge Rudolph Contreras on 12/3/2014. (lcrc3)
  8. LAM 3:2014cv00671Williams v. U.S. Goverment et al
    • December 2, 2014: RULING: A review of the record shows that more than 21 days has elapsed from the date of the Order to pay the Court's filing fee. Despite clear notice that he must pay the full filing fee and having had ample time to do so, the Plaintiff has failed to pay the filing fee. Therefore, the Plaintiffs § 1983 Complaint shall be dismissed. Judgment shall be entered accordingly. Signed by Judge Shelly D. Dick on 12/2/2014. (LLH) Modified on 12/4/2014 to edit text (LLH).
  9. OHS 1:2012cv00959Kohake v. Department of Treasury
    • December 1, 2014: ORDER granting [12] Motion for Summary Judgment; The Clerk is directed to file under seal two in camera documents the Court has deemed to be properly withheld. Signed by Judge Michael R. Barrett on 11/28/14. (ba1)
  10. WIE 2:2014cv01430Hoeller v. Social Security Administration
    • December 1, 2014: ORDER signed by Judge Lynn Adelman on 12/1/14 granting [2] Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. Further ordering that the U.S. Marshals Service shall serve a copy of the complaint, a waiver of service form and/or the summons, and this order upon defendant. (cc: via USPS to plaintiff) (dm)
Dec 11 14

53 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by foiaproj

We have added 53 documents from 10 FOIA cases filed between November 30, 2014 and December 6, 2014. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. BUZZFEED, INC. et al v. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (filed Dec 2, 2014)
    Aram Roston, a reporter for Buzzfeed, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Central Command, a component of the Department of Defense, for records concerning complaints or allegations of misuse of force or brutality against detainees. The agency acknowledged Roston’s request and told him it was placed in the media category, but that at present it was too broad to process. After hearing nothing further from Central Command, Buzzfeed filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  2. SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL v. U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE (filed Dec 3, 2014)
    Safari Club International submitted a FOIA request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for records concerning the agency’s enhancement of survival finding made for the importation of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe in 2014. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but told Safari Club International that a new FOIA Officer had just begun at the agency and while she was making sure all requests were acknowledged, things were in a state flux. Despite repeated emails trying to get information concerning the processing of the request, the agency failed to provide a substantive response within the statutory time limit and Safari Club filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  3. Williams et al v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District (filed Dec 3, 2014)
    Jason Williams, representing EJF Plus, submitted a FOIA request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, for all records in its file concerning a finding by the agency that a piece of property owned by EJF Plus was in violation of the Clean Water Act because of sludge being dumped into a wetland area. The agency partially denied the request under Exemption 7(A) (ongoing investigation or proceeding) withholding a total of 176 documents and 58 photographs. Williams appealed the denial and after the agency failed to respond within the statutory time limit, Williams filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  4. Public Record Media v. U.S. Department of the Interior (filed Dec 4, 2014)
    Public Record Media submitted a FOIA request to the Bureau of Land Management for communications submitted by companies or their employees supporting a copper/sulfide mining proposal. The agency did not acknowledge Public Record Media’s request and it filed an administrative appeal, which also went unanswered. Public Record Media then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  5. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Department of Agriculture et al (filed Dec 4, 2014)
    The Natural Resources Defense Council submitted a FOIA request to the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the Department of Agriculture for records concerning the agency’s inspection of Foster Farms’ facilities and the company’s application for approval of label claims for its chicken products. NRDC also requested a fee waiver. The agency provided two interim responses of 300 pages each, but after hearing nothing further pertaining to the processing of its request or whether its fee waiver request would be granted, NRDC filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  6. Stone v. McKeague et al (filed Dec 4, 2014)
    Rick Stone submitted three FOIA requests to Kelly McKeague, commanding office of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, for records concerning data on servicemen missing in action. The agency failed to acknowledge receipt of any of the three requests and Stone filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  7. PUBLIC EMPLOYEES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY REGION 9 (filed Dec 5, 2014)
    PEER submitted a FOIA request to the EPA for records concerning communications between agency employees, Senate staffers, and members of the Malibu city council pertaining to possible toxic contamination of school buildings in the Malibu Santa Monica School District. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, granted PEER a fee waiver, and took a 10-day extension. After hearing nothing further pertaining to a substantive response to its request, PEER filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  8. JACKSON & MacNICHOL et al v. MCDONALD (filed Dec 5, 2014)
    The law firm of Jackson & MacNichol submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the claims file of their client, Joseph Viola. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing from further from the agency, Jackson & MacNichol filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  9. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP v. United States Securities and Exchange Commission (filed Dec 5, 2014)
    The law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd submitted a FOIA request to the SEC for records concerning the agency’s investigation, transactions, offers and orders concerning the law firm’s client Lionsgate. The agency responded to the request by denying it in full under Exemption 7(A) (ongoing investigation or proceeding). The law firm appealed the agency’s denial, which the agency upheld. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd then filed suit.
    Issues: Determination – Glomar response, Exemption 7(A) – Interference with ongoing investigation, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  10. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Enviornmental Protection Agency (filed Dec 5, 2014)
    The Natural Resources Defense Council submitted two FOIA requests to the EPA for records concerning the agency’s implementation of two provisions of the Clean Water Act. NRDC also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of both requests and granted NRDC a fee waiver. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency pertaining to either request, NRDC filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
Dec 4 14

FOIA Activity: 10 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by foiaproj

We have added 10 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between November 16, 2014 and November 29, 2014. These are associated with 10 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  1. CAE 2:2013cv02204Laborers International Union of North America Pacific Soutohwest Region v. U.S. Department of Energy
    • November 21, 2014: STIPULATION and ORDER [26] to allow filing of oversized document signed by Chief Judge Morrison C. England, Jr on 11/20/2014. The Court will allow defendant to file Reply Brief by 11/18/2014 and to occupy up to 15 pages as an exception to 10-page limit set on Court's website. (Marciel, M)
  2. CAN 3:2013cv02789Public.Resource.org v. United States Internal Revenue Service
    • November 18, 2014: ORDER AND ORDER RESCHEDULING HEARING ON PARTIES' CROSS-MOITONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT granting [57] STIPULATION WITH PROPOSED ORDER. Hearing re [46] , [47] MOTION for Summary Judgment continued to 1/14/2015 02:00 PM in Courtroom 2, 17th Floor, San Francisco before Hon. William H. Orrick. Signed by Judge William H. Orrick on 11/18/2014. (jmdS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/18/2014)
  3. CAN 3:2014cv02166American Small Business League v. Department of Defense
    • November 23, 2014: ORDER DENYING [18] , [20] CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (whalc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/23/2014).
  4. CAN 3:2014cv04365Our Children's Earth Foundation et al v. National Marine Fisheries Service et al
    • November 19, 2014: STIPULATION AND ORDER Setting Briefing Schedule for Cross Motions for Summary Judgment. Set/Reset Deadlines as to [12] MOTION for Summary Judgment. Responses due by 12/5/2014. Replies due by 12/19/2014. Motion Hearing set for 1/9/2015 10:00 AM in Courtroom 1, 17th Floor, San Francisco before Hon. Samuel Conti. Signed by Judge Samuel Conti on 11/19/2014. (tmi, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/19/2014)
  5. CAN 4:2012cv05580Electronic Frontier Foundation v. Department of Homeland Security
    • November 18, 2014: ORDER by Judge Hamilton granting [42] Motion for Attorney Fees (pjhlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/18/2014)
  6. CO 1:2014cv03148Rock Creek Alliance et al v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    • November 25, 2014: ORDER Scheduling Conference set for 1/27/2015 09:30 AM in Courtroom A 502 before Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe, by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe on 11/25/2014. (emill)
  7. DC 1:2014cv00969PRISOLOGY v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS
    • November 17, 2014: MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on 11/17/2014. (lcabj2)
  8. ILS 3:2014cv00908Henson v. Department of Health and Human Services et al
    • November 20, 2014: ORDER DENYING [28] MOTION for Instruction from the Court filed by J. Donald Henson, Sr., DENYING [27] MOTION for Reconsideration re 22 Order on Motion for Miscellaneous Relief,Order on Motion to Compel filed by J. Donald Henson, Sr. Answer due deadlines VACATED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson on 11/20/14. (sgp)
  9. MD 8:2014cv02245Reaves v. Jewell
    • November 26, 2014: MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Plaintiff 11/26/14 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 11/26/2014. (sat, Chambers)
  10. OHS 2:2014cv00986Harper v. Department of the Army Huntington District, Corps of Engineers
    • November 24, 2014: OPINION AND ORDER denying [2] Motion to Compel Preparation of a Vaughn Index. Signed by Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King on 11/24/2014. (pes1)
Dec 4 14

136 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by foiaproj

We have added 136 documents from 22 FOIA cases filed between November 16, 2014 and November 29, 2014. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. HARMON v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (filed Nov 17, 2014)
    Jeb-Michael Harmon, a student at American University, submitted a FOIA request to the EPA for records referencing greenhouse gases that were sent to Michael Goo, a former EPA official and Alex Barron, a current EPA official. Harmon also requested a fee waiver. The agency denied Harmon’s request for a fee waiver and asked him to commit to pay fees. He refused to commit to pay fees and because the agency did not provide appeal rights for challenging such a commitment to pay, Harmon filed suit.
    Issues: Fees, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Withholding not related to exemption claims
  2. ASHLEY v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Nov 17, 2014)
    Jonathan Ashley, a reference librarian at the University of Virginia Law School, submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for 30 non-prosecution agreements and/or deferred prosecution agreements. Ashley also asked for inclusion under the educational fee category. He also asked for a fee waiver. Ashley received a letter from the Office of Information Policy referring the request to EOUSA. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, Ashley filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Fee Category – Media or Educational, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  3. Etessami v. Customs and Border Protection (filed Nov 17, 2014)
    Alireza Etessami applied for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. He was told that he could not get a visa until he could show that his previous stay in the U.S. was legal. Several attorneys representing him submitted FOIA requests to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for relevant records. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Etessami filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  4. Solers, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (filed Nov 17, 2014)
    Solers, Inc., an information technology solutions provider for the federal and commercial sector, submitted a FOIA request to the IRS for documents related to its tax liability and potential assessed penalties. The agency responded by withholding 32 pages in full and 26 pages in part under Exemption 7(A) (ongoing investigation or proceeding), Exemption 3 (other statutes), and Exemption 5 (privileges). Solers, Inc. appealed the decision and the agency upheld its denial. Solers, Inc. then filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 3, Exemption 5 – Privileges, Exemption 7(A) – Interference with ongoing investigation, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  5. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (filed Nov 18, 2014)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Defense for records concerning the agency’s decision to transfer five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and asked Judicial Watch for clarification. Judicial Watch clarified that it was seeking information particularly about the determination that the five individuals were no longer a threat to national security. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  6. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (filed Nov 18, 2014)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Defense for records related to payment by the U.S. or a third party to another state as part of the agreement for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and told Judicial Watch that it would be unable to respond within the statutory time limit. Judicial Watch then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  7. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Nov 18, 2014)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records concerning any payment made by the U.S. or a third party to another state as part of the agreement for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  8. The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Civil Clinic et al v. United States Customs and Border Protection (filed Nov 18, 2014)
    The Civil Clinic at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law submitted a FOIA request to Customs and Border Protection for records concerning the agency’s Sandusky Bay Border Patrol’s practices and procedures regarding racial profiling. The Civil Clinic also requested a fee waiver. After hearing nothing further from the agency, the Civil Clinic filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Public Interest Fee Waiver
  9. ATTKISSON et al v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Nov 19, 2014)
    Journalist Sharyl Attkisson and Judicial Watch submitted FOIA requests to the FBI for records concerning Attkisson. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests and asked Judicial Watch to submit a certification of identity form signed by Attkisson. Attkisson provided the form, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Attkisson and Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  10. DE SOUSA v. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY et al (filed Nov 19, 2014)
    Sabrina De Sousa worked at the U.S. Embassy in Italy at the time that Abu Omar was renditioned by the U.S. and sent from Italy to Egypt where he was tortured. Italian authorities indicted De Sousa and 25 others for their alleged role in the rendition of Abu Omar and tried and convicted De Sousa and others in absentia. Because De Sousa might be extradited if she traveled abroad, she was not allowed to leave the U.S. and ultimately resigned from the State Department. She submitted FOIA requests to State, the CIA, and the Department of Defense for records pertaining to the U.S. government’s investigation of Abu Omar’s rendition as well as determinations concerning the government’s obligation to defend her. The CIA issued a Glomar response neither confirming nor denying the existence of records. The other agencies did not substantively respond to her requests and De Sousa finally filed suit.
    Issues: Determination – Glomar response, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  11. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (filed Nov 19, 2014)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the IRS for any records of tax-exempt organizations provided to the FBI. The IRS acknowledged receipt of the request and took a 10-day extension. It later took a further extension, but after receiving no response from the agency, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  12. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Nov 19, 2014)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records of any tax-exempt organizations provided by the IRS. The FBI acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  13. The New York Times Company v. United States Department of Justice (filed Nov 19, 2014)
    The New York Times submitted a FOIA request to the Justice Department’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for records of attorney’s fees paid to prevailing plaintiffs in FOIA law suits in the Southern District of New York since 2009. Although the Times made numerous attempts to contact EOUSA concerning the status of its request, after hearing nothing from the agency it filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  14. Rock Creek Alliance et al v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (filed Nov 20, 2014)
    Rocky Creek Alliance submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for records concerning the environmental impact of the Rock Creek and Montanore Mine projects on several species. The agency provided some records, but withheld 39 records under Exemption 5 (privileges). Rocky Creek Alliance filed an administrative appeal, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Rocky Creek Alliance filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 5 – Privileges, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  15. HARLOW CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, LLC v. U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION (filed Nov 20, 2014)
    Harlow Capital Management submitted a FOIA request to the SEC for records of any complaints or investigations of Harlow Capital Management. The SEC denied the request under Exemption 7(A) (ongoing investigation or proceeding). When Harlow Capital Management appealed, the agency upheld the denial. Shortly thereafter, the agency informed Harlow Capital Management that the SEC investigation of the company was concluded. Harlow Capital Management then asked for the records again. This time, the agency indicated that it had provided predisclosure notification to a third party whose records were in the file of the agency’s investigation of Harlow Capital Management. After hearing nothing further about the request, Harlow Capital Management filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  16. Tamez-Shaftel v. Kerry (filed Nov 20, 2014)
    Fabian Tamez, a resident of Mexico, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records about himself. Tamez indicated that he supposedly had U.S. citizenship through his mother but had allegedly renounced it when he turned 18. The agency provided some, but not all, the documents it located. Tamez filed an administrative appeal, but the agency had already indicated that since it had missed its time-frame for responding Tamez was free to file suit. Tamez subsequently filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  17. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Nov 21, 2014)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Office of Information Policy for records concerning meetings between Al Sharpton and Attorney General Eric Holder. OIP acknowledged receipt of the request and took an extension. Judicial Watch also submitted a FOIA request to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for records of any meetings between Sharpton and Civil Rights Division head Tom Perez or others in the Civil Rights Division. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  18. MICROSOFT CORPORATION v. INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (filed Nov 24, 2014)
    Microsoft submitted a FOIA request to the IRS for records related to a contract awarded to the law firm of Quinn Emanuel in connection with an agency examination of Microsoft’s taxes. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Microsoft filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  19. LEOPOLD v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Nov 24, 2014)
    Journalist Jason Leopold submitted a FOIA request to EOUSA for records concerning the Justice Department’s prosecution of the HSBC Bank litigation supervised by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch, who has been nominated by President Obama to become Attorney General. Leopold asked for expedited processing and a fee waiver. After hearing nothing from the agency, Leopold filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  20. LEOPOLD v. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY (filed Nov 24, 2014)
    Journalist Jason Leopold submitted a FOIA request to the CIA for an Inspector General’s report concerning the agency’s use of drugs for purposes of interrogation. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but Leopold heard nothing further from the agency pertaining to his request. He submitted a second FOIA request for 21 unclassified IG reports. He also asked for a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of his second FOIA request and granted his request for a fee waiver. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, Leopold filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  21. Baker v. Federal Bureau of Investigation (filed Nov 24, 2014)
    Ben Baker submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records concerning the agency’s investigation of Chicago police officer Ronald Watts for stealing drugs from a courier who was an informant in an FBI undercover sting. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and told Baker that he needed to show a public interest in disclosure. Baker appealed the agency’s decision, which was upheld. Baker then filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 7(C) – Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  22. ALSARI v. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY et al (filed Nov 26, 2014)
    Ali Hussain AlSari submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security for all records pertaining to him. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and asked for further information. AlSari indicated that he was having trouble traveling and the agency referred the request to TSA and Customs and Border Protection. AlSari heard nothing further from the agency. AlSari also submitted FOIA requests directly to TSA and CBP. The requests were acknowledged but no further substantive action was taken. AlSari also submitted a request to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for records related to him. The agency indicated it had located two responsive pages and intended to redact those pages. AlSari filed an administrative appeal with ICE but heard nothing further from the agency. AlSari also submitted a request to the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of Treasury. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but AlSari heard nothing further from the agency. AlSari also submitted a request to the FBI for records about him. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but AlSari heard nothing further from the agency. AlSari finally filed suit against all the agencies.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
Nov 20 14

Bitter Dispute at Heart of FOIA Suits Against Army

by Greg Munno

There’s a story behind every FOIA lawsuit. The one behind American Management Services LLC vs. Department of the Army is a doozy, complete with allegations that tens of millions of public dollars have been diverted to fight a private company’s legal battles instead of going to housing for soldiers and their families.

ClarkPinnacle

One of the Clark Pinnacle housing developments, this one at Fort Irwin in California.

The case has a long-but-interesting history. American Management Services, doing business at the time as Pinnacle, entered into a joint venture with Clark Realty Capital to form Clark Pinnacle Family Communities. The joint venture was formed in 2002 to pursue contracts to build and manage housing for U.S. military personnel after Congress enacted the Military Housing Privatization Initiative in 1996.

Clark Pinnacle went on to develop housing projects in six locations that included more than 11,000 homes, according to an April 2014 Government Accountability Office report. GAO valued the projects at about $2 billion. The projects were at Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Belvoir in Virginia, the Presidio at Monterey Bay in California, and three other sites collectively known as the California Military Communities: Fort Irwin, Moffett Field and Camp Parks.

In 2010, things turned nasty. Clark went to the Army with what it said was evidence of mismanagement and fraud by Pinnacle, according to court documents and the GAO report. The Army gave Clark the go-ahead to take legal action to force Pinnacle out of its management role. That has kicked off a series of lawsuits, primarily between Clark and Pinnacle. Pinnacle also brought two FOIA suits against the Army as it seeks documents to bolster its case against Clark.

The animosity runs deep. Pinnacle lawyers write in one of the complaints, “Clark has instigated a scorched-earth litigation campaign to oust Pinnacle from its property management role at each of the four housing projects. After relying on Pinnacle’s experience and reputation to win these projects, Clark is now manipulating its position as the majority partner in the joint venture to terminate Pinnacle’s interests.”

read more…

Nov 20 14

FOIA Activity: 2 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by foiaproj

We have added 2 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between November 9, 2014 and November 15, 2014. These are associated with 2 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  • CAN 3:2011cv00846The Sierra Club et al v. United States Environmental Protection Agency
    • November 10, 2014: ORDER VACATING HEARING re [77] MOTION for Attorney Fees and Costs filed by The Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project. Signed by Judge Maria-Elena James on 11/10/2014. (cdnS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/10/2014)
  • WVN 1:2014cv00179Ramey v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service
    • November 14, 2014: ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION [2] TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS. An initial partial filing fee of $44.19 is due within 28 days of the entry of this Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge John S. Kaull on 11/14/2014. Copy sent certified mail, return receipt to pro se Plaintiff; copy of Order and executed consent to collect sent to trustee officer; copy emailed to financial deputy Howell.(tlg) (Additional attachment(s) added on 11/14/2014: # 1 certified mail receipt) (tlg).
Nov 20 14

41 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by foiaproj

We have added 41 documents from 8 FOIA cases filed between November 9, 2014 and November 15, 2014. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. JOSEPH v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE et al (filed Nov 10, 2014)
    Patrick Joseph submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records concerning a Cambodian non-governmental organization that runs a shelter for runaway girls. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but although there were several email exchanges regarding the request’s status, the agency had taken no further action. Joseph also submitted a FOIA request to the U.S. Agency for International Development for records on the same Cambodian organization. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. There were several exchanges regarding the status of the request and USAID finally indicated that it believed the information was protected by Exemption 4 (confidential business information) and that it planned to provide predisclosure notification to the organization. Joseph then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  2. ORGANIZATION FOR COMPETITIVE MARKETS v. OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL (filed Nov 12, 2014)
    The Organization for Competitive Markets submitted a FOIA request to the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Agriculture for an audit it had conducted of the department’s beef promotion program. The agency identified 3, 346 responsive pages, but disclosed only 101 pages, withholding the rest of the records under Exemption 5 (privileges) and Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy). The Organization appealed the denial, which was upheld. At that time, the agency also granted the Organization’s request for a fee waiver. A month later, OIG sent a letter to the Organization indicating that the audit had been placed on active status review and that none of the records could now be released. In January 2014, the agency published a final version of the report, but the Organization pursued its original request to explore discrepancies between findings in 2010 that were no longer part of the 2014 final report. While processing the request, the agency also indicated that it could not provide the records in electronic format as requested, but only as PDF files. The Organization than filed suit.
    Issues: Choice of format, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  3. Braun v. Federal Bureau of Investigation (filed Nov 12, 2014)
    David Steven Braun submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for his records. The agency provided a single page. Dissatisfied, Braun filed suit.
    Issues: Withholding not related to exemption claims
  4. Hoeller v. Social Security Administration (filed Nov 12, 2014)
    Timothy Hoeller sought records from the Social Security Administration concerning how payments were to be calculated and collected under provisions of the recent financial reform statute. Hoeller apparently did not file a FOIA request, but is using his lawsuit to obtain access to the records he seeks.
    Issues: Withholding not related to exemption claims
  5. Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd, LLP v. United States Securities and Exchange Commission (filed Nov 13, 2014)
    The law firm of Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd submitted a FOIA request to the SEC for records provided by Walmart that indicated they may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The agency responded by indicating that all records were being withheld under Exemption 7(A) (ongoing investigation or proceeding). The law firm appealed the denial, which was upheld. The law firm then filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 7(A) – Categorical exemption, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  6. Eberg v. Defense (filed Nov 14, 2014)
    Cheryl Eberg, a military veteran, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Defense for records concerning sexual harassment charges against Col. William Adams, who had been the subject of Eberg’s 2006 EEO complaint. The agency denied her request and she filed an administrative appeal. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Eberg filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  7. CABAN v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Nov 14, 2014)
    Jennifer Caban, a free-lance journalist, submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records on herself. The agency responded that it had found 3,205 responsive pages and asked Caban if she wanted the records in hard-copy or on a CD. She asked for a CD as well as an estimated completion date. The agency provided an estimated date of completion of June 23, 2014. After that date came without receipt of the records, she asked for a new completion date and the agency told her it would be finished by Dec. 31, 2014. She then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  8. Gahagan v. United States Customs and Border Protection et al (filed Nov 15, 2014)
    Immigration attorney Michael Gahagan submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for records concerning his client, Theodore Weegar, who was in removal proceedings, but heard nothing further from CBP. Gahagan also requested records on Weegar from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE indicated it had sent his request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for processing. Gahagan filed an administrative appeal of ICE’s decision not to search its own records, but heard nothing further from ICE. Gahagan also submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records on Weegar. State contacted Gahagan and asked for further information before it would process the request. Gahagan regarded that letter as a denial and filed an appeal. He heard nothing further concerning his appeal. Gahagan then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index