Skip to content
Mar 26 15

FOIA Activity: 13 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by foiaproj

We have added 13 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between March 15, 2015 and March 21, 2015. These are associated with 13 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. ALN 2:2014cv00028Balch & Bingham LLP v. The United States Department of Health and Human Services
    • March 19, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION Signed by Judge William M Acker, Jr on 3/19/15. (SAC )
  2. CAE 1:2013cv01122(PS) Leonard Brown v. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration
    • March 17, 2015: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS recommending that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be DENIED (Docs. 19, 20). Matter referred to Judge O'Neill; Objections to F&R due within t wenty-eight (28) days of service of this recommendation. ORDER DENYING Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery and Motion to Compel Production of a Vaughn Index. (Docs. 15, 18). Findings and Recommendations and Order signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 3/17/2015. (Timken, A)
  3. CAE 1:2015cv00007Turner v. United States Department of the Treasury
    • March 16, 2015: ORDER GRANTING Plaintiff's [2] Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 3/16/2015. (Attachments: # 1 IFP Application) (Marrujo, C)
  4. CO 1:2014cv02784San Juan Citizens Alliance, Inc. v. Bureau of Land Management
    • March 19, 2015: ORDER granting [29] joint motion to vacate the March 23, 2015 conference, by Judge Richard P. Matsch on 3/19/15. (ktera)
  5. DC 1:2011cv01106CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
    • March 18, 2015: MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard J. Leon on 03/17/15. (tb, )
  6. DC 1:2012cv00534DORSEY v. EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS
    • March 20, 2015: MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 3/19/15. (ms, )
  7. DC 1:2012cv01872PINSON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
    • March 19, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION granting in part and denying in part [62] Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. See document for details. Signed by Judge Rudolph Contreras on 03/19/2015. (lcrc2)
  8. DC 1:2013cv00123JONES v. DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION
    • March 20, 2015: MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 3/20/15. (ms, )
  9. DC 1:2013cv00239TIPOGRAPH v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
    • March 18, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION re: Defendant's [22] MOTION for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's [31] Cross MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 3/18/2015. (tcr)
  10. DC 1:2013cv00823HALL & ASSOCIATES v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
    • March 16, 2015: MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 3/16/2015. (lctsc2)
  11. DC 1:2013cv01088SMITH v. EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEY et al
    • March 18, 2015: MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard J. Leon on 03/17/15. (tb, )
  12. DC 1:2014cv00558WRIGHT v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
    • March 16, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION re [10] defendant's motion for summary judgment and [12] plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on March 16, 2015. (lcesh2)
  13. UT 1:2014cv00020Eames v. USA
    • March 19, 2015: ORDER ADOPTING [16] REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS: granting [3] Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and [11] Motion to Strike; denying [10] Motion for Default Judgment. Signed by Judge David Nuffer on 3/19/15 (alt)
Mar 26 15

79 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by foiaproj

We have added 79 documents from 17 FOIA cases filed between March 15, 2015 and March 21, 2015. 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. CITIZENS UNITED v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Mar 16, 2015)
    Citizens United submitted four FOIA requests to the Department of State for correspondence between former State Department employees Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and Kris Balderson and various third parties, particularly the Clinton Foundation. Citizens United asked for inclusion in the media fee category and for expedited processing. The agency denied its requests for expedited processing, but after seven months without a response to any of the requests, Citizens United filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  2. Mouton v. Internal Affairs et al (filed Mar 16, 2015)
    Patrick Mouton made a request to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office for records. After the office failed to respond, he filed suit under the federal FOIA. Mouton may have a cause of action under Louisiana’s access law, but not under the federal FOIA.
    Issues: FOIA not mentioned
  3. American Civil Liberties Union et al v. Department of Justice et al (filed Mar 16, 2015)
    The ACLU submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice and a number of other agencies for records concerning the government’s targeted-killing program. After none of the agencies had responded, the ACLU filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  4. Franklin v. U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (filed Mar 16, 2015)
    Tom Franklin submitted a FOIA request to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. When the court failed to respond, he filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  5. Springer v. United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma et al (filed Mar 16, 2015)
    Lindsey Springer, a federal prisoner, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for records concerning the authority of two attorneys who were involved in his criminal prosecution. The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys told Springer that the two attorneys no longer were employed by DOJ and that there were no responsive records. Springer appealed to the Office of Information Policy and ultimately filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Recovery of Costs
  6. SIKES v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Mar 17, 2015)
    Thomas Sikes submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for records concerning any oral communications between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia and Sikes’ attorney pertaining to his previous FOIA litigation against the Department of the Navy. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but told Sikes he would need to provide third-party authorization for his attorney. He did so and had some further back and forth with the agency. He finally asked the agency for an estimated date of completion so he could appeal to the Office of Information Policy. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Sikes filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  7. Reedom v. Social Security et al (filed Mar 17, 2015)
    James Reedom submitted FOIA requests to the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Department of Agriculture. Both the IRS and the Department of Agriculture responded to his requests but withheld information under Exemption 4 (confidential business information). The Social Security Administration did not respond. Reedom then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  8. AHN v. U.S. FBI FOIA OFFICE (filed Mar 18, 2015)
    Soo-Myung Ahn submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records concerning the Sony hacking incident. The FBI responded with a single document online, but Ahn was dissatisfied after receiving nothing further and filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit
  9. NZINGOULA v. US DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT et al (filed Mar 18, 2015)
    Rita Nzingoula submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which was denied. She also requested records from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Adult Protection Services, which was also denied. Nzingoula then filed suit against both the federal and state agencies.
    Issues: Exemptions
  10. Wilderness Watch v. United States Forest Service (filed Mar 18, 2015)
    Wilderness Watch submitted a FOIA request to the U.S. Forest Service for records concerning recreation use monitoring and outfitter guide permit administration in the Emigrant Wilderness within the Stanislaus National Forest. The agency denied access to raw monitoring data under Exemption 5 (deliberative process privilege). Wilderness Watch appealed, but after the agency failed to respond to its appeal, Wilderness Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  11. Eil v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (filed Mar 18, 2015)
    Philip Eil, a journalist working on a book about the trial and conviction of Paul Volkman, submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for records included on the government’s exhibit list for Volkman’s trial. EOUSA referred the request to DEA. The agency began to review 15,000 pages and over time processed portions of them, releasing about 1600 pages to Eil and redacting much of the information under Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records) and Exemption 7(E) (investigative methods and techniques). Eil finally filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  12. TRACY v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Mar 19, 2015)
    Kimberly Tracy submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for records concerning herself and interviews conducted by the FBI in Las Vegas pertaining to an alleged extortion threat to Tracy and her husband. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further, Tracy filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Recovery of Costs
  13. Powell v. Internal Revenue Service (filed Mar 19, 2015)
    William Powell submitted nine FOIA requests to the IRS for tax records concerning Powell Printing Company and the estate of William A. Powell. The agency acknowledged receipt of the requests but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Powell filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Vaughn index
  14. American Civil Liberties Union et al v. Transportation Security Administration (filed Mar 19, 2015)
    The ACLU submitted a FOIA request to the Transportation Security Administration for records concerning behavior detection programs. The ACLU requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. The agency denied the ACLU’s requests for expedited processing and a fee waiver. The ACLU filed an appeal, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, the ACLU filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  15. PUBLIC EMPLOYEES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (filed Mar 20, 2015)
    PEER submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for records concerning the agency’s efforts to protect grasslands and wetlands in the “Prairie Pothole” region. The agency responded to PEER’s request but withheld six documents under Exemption 5 (deliberative process privilege). PEER filed an administrative appeal, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, PEER filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 5 – Privileges – Deliberative process privilege – Predecisional, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  16. MORRISON v. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY (filed Mar 20, 2015)
    Alan Morrison, Dean of Public Interest and Public Service Law at George Washington University Law School, submitted a FOIA request to the CIA in 2006 concerning the legality of renditions. The agency responded in 2013 by disclosing the same set of records it had disclosed to the ACLU in an unrelated request. Morrison attempted to have the agency clarify why it thought the records were responsive. In March 2014, he submitted another FOIA request to the CIA for records concerning the legal basis for rendition. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. Morrison filed an administrative appeal of the agency’s failure to respond within the 20-day time limits. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Morrison filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  17. REEDOM v. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION et al (filed Mar 20, 2015)
    James Reedom submitted FOIA requests to the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Department of Agriculture. The Social Security Administration failed to respond to his request. The IRS and the Department of Agriculture provided some records but withheld others under Exemption 4 (confidential business information). Reedom alleged that both agencies denied his administrative appeal with a form letter. Reedom then filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 4, Failure to respond within statutory time limit
Mar 25 15

NPR Covers ACLU FOIA Suit Against TSA

by Greg Munno

2012-tsa-tso-checks-passenger-id500National Public Radio reported this morning on a FOIA suit filed last week against the Transportation Security Administration by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is seeking documents related to the TSA’s behavioral profiling program.

The FOIA Project’s daily updates of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits captured the documents related to this case, currently comprised of the docket and the complaint.

Complaints often make for interesting reading, and this one is no exception. In it, the ACLU notes that “government auditors have repeatedly questioned the basic premise underlying the TSA’s behavior detection programs: that human behaviors reflecting deception or ill-intent can be detected reliably and objectively.”

It then goes on to site a number of the audits, including a 2013 Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report that found the “TSA cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that the program is cost effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion.”

The ACLU asked for a variety of documents related to the program — including information on training, disproportional effects on minorities, and measures of effectiveness – in an Oct. 1, 2014 FOIA request to the agency. On Oct. 10, the agency informed the ACLU that it had denied its requests for a fee waiver and expedited processing. On Dec. 8, the ACLU administratively appealed that finding.

After hearing nothing further pertaining to its appeal or the release of the documents, the ACLU filed suit on March 19th in the Southern District of New York , according to the court records.

Mar 23 15

CIA Responds to FOIA Failure Designation

by Greg Munno
The declaration of CIA Chief Historian David S. Robarge

The declaration of CIA Chief Historian David S. Robarge

The Central Intelligence Agency says that the fifth and final volume of a multi-volume history of the agency’s role in the Bay of Pigs Operation is not part of the Official History of the Bay of Pigs sought by the National Security Archive. It notes that two district court judges and an appellate court panel have agreed with the agency’s stance that Volume 5 is predecisional and part of the agency’s deliberative process. Therefore, it is properly exempt from disclosure under FOIA’s B5 Exemption.

The Archive nominated its battle with the CIA to get this multi-volume history for the FOIA Project’s FOIA Failure contest. The FOIA Project asked the Archive and five others who have brought multiple FOIA suits against the government to select a suit they felt represents a particularly egregious example of a failure to adequately comply with a FOIA request. The FOIA Project then asked the public to vote on the “worst of the worst” during Sunshine Week. The voting closed Friday morning (3/20/2015). The Archive’s case against the CIA was voted the winner, with 68 of 264 votes, one vote ahead of the second-place finisher, a case involving official assessments of the damage caused by the Edward Snowden leaks.

On Friday evening, at the request of the FOIA Project, CIA spokesperson Ryan Trapani provided this statement via e-mail:

read more…

Mar 20 15

CIA “Wins” Inaugural FOIA Failure Award

by Greg Munno

The National Security Archive first filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the Central Intelligence Agency’s five-volume Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation a decade ago, in 2005.

CIA "Wins" the FOIA Failure Award

CIA “Wins” the FOIA Failure Award

But it wasn’t until 2011, when the Archive filed a lawsuit against the CIA on the eve of 50th anniversary of the botched invasion, that it received any documents. As the case slowly made its way through the courts, the CIA gradually relented on releasing various aspects of this multi-volume text.

The agency, however, steadfastly refused to release Volume 5, contending that the half-century old work was a draft and part of its internal deliberations, and therefore exempt from FOIA. The CIA also contended that release of the document wouldn’t serve history well, and would confuse the American public rather than enlighten it.

read more…

Mar 19 15

FOIA Activity: 14 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by foiaproj

We have added 14 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between March 1, 2015 and March 14, 2015. These are associated with 14 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 1:2013cv01122(PS) Leonard Brown v. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration
    • March 5, 2015: ORDER VACATING From the Court's Calendar Plaintiff's Motions to Compel [15] and [18] , and Continuing the Motions to be Considered with the Parties' Cross Motions for Summary Judgment. Order signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 3/5/2015. (Timken, A)
  2. CAN 3:2012cv03728American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California et al v. Federal Bureau of Investigation
    • March 10, 2015: ORDER CONTINUING CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE (Illston, Susan) (Filed on 3/10/2015)
  3. CAN 4:2014cv04418Danko Meredith v. United States of America Air Force
    • March 5, 2015: NOTICE of Settlement Conference and Settlement Conference Order by Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte. The Settlement Conference is set for 6/10/2015 at 9:30 AM before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte in Courtroom E, 15th Floor, San Francisco.(shyS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/5/2015)
  4. DC 1:2011cv01972AMERICAN IMMIGRATION COUNCIL v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY et al
    • March 10, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION re [58] ORDER. Signed by Judge James E. Boasberg on 3/10/15. (lcjeb1)
  5. DC 1:2012cv00127ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, CRIMINAL DIVISION et al
    • March 4, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment and granting in part and denying in part Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein on 3/4/15.(lcbjr2)
  6. DC 1:2012cv01726LANDMARK LEGAL FOUNDATION v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
    • March 2, 2015: MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Royce C. Lamberth on 3/2/15. (mpt, )
  7. DC 1:2013cv02003DUGAN v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE et al
    • March 12, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION accompanying Order issued separately this day. Signed by Judge Rudolph Contreras on 3/12/15.(ah )
  8. DC 1:2014cv00591STS ENERGY PARTNERS LP v. FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION
    • March 4, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION. See text for details. Signed by Judge John D. Bates on 3/4/15. (lcjdb2)
  9. DC 1:2014cv00765COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE v. OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
    • March 3, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION to the Order granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Gladys Kessler on 3/3/15. (CL, )
  10. KYW 3:2014cv00652Texas Roadhouse, Inc. et al v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    • March 3, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting [6] Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction; Signed by Chief Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr on 3/3/15: The motion by Defendant, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to dismiss the case pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 DN [6] is GRANTED. The Court dismisses Plaintiffs' FOIA claims without prejudice to refiling such claims after administrative remedies have been exhausted. Plaintiffs may pursue administrative appeals from the EEOC's responses related to the first three FOIA requests within 60 days from the entry of this opinion. cc: Counsel (DJT)
  11. KYW 5:2012cv00127LWD PRP Group v. ACF Industries, LLC et al
    • March 13, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER granting [958] Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; granting [1002] Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; granting [1031] Motion to Dismiss; granting [1100] Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Greg N. Stivers on 3/12/2015. cc: Counsel(KJA)
  12. MD 1:2012cv01235Havemann v. Colvin
    • March 6, 2015: MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge J. Frederick Motz on 3/6/2015. (dass, Deputy Clerk)
  13. NYS 1:2013cv07347American Civil Liberties Union et al v. United States Department of Justice
    • March 3, 2015: MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER re: [17] MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment, filed by United States Department of Justice, [23] MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment, filed by American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Unio n Foundation. The ACLU's motion for summary judgment based on the scope of DOJ's search is GRANTED IN PART as described above. The Court orders DOJ to conduct a new search for the documents requested in Part 3, without limiting that search to "governing" documents, and to release any responsive records that do not fall under a FOIA exemption. To the extent that the ACLU's motion challenges other aspects of DOJ's search, it is DENIED IN PART. The government's mo tion for summary judgment based on the applicability of Exemption 5 to the documents listed in the government's Vaughn index is GRANTED. The ACLU's cross-motion on that issue is DENIED. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate the motions pending at docket numbers 17 and 23 and to close this case. (Signed by Judge Gregory H. Woods on 3/3/2015) (kko)
  14. OHS 2:2013cv00797Rogers v. Internal Revenue Service
    • March 2, 2015: OPINION AND ORDER granting [37] Motion for Summary Judgment; denying [40] Motion for Default Judgment; denying [28] Motion for Contempt. Signed by Judge James L Graham on 3/2/2015. (ds)
Mar 19 15

143 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by foiaproj

We have added 143 documents from 22 FOIA cases filed between March 1, 2015 and March 14, 2015. 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. PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, INC. v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (filed Mar 3, 2015)
    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals submitted a FOIA request to the Centers for Disease Control for records required to be submitted to CDC by primate importers and transporters. PETA asked CDC for an estimated date of completion and the agency indicated that it would need to notify a number of importers/transporters for their comments as to the confidentiality of information and that it would take 32 months to process PETA’s request. After hearing nothing further from the agency concerning the predisclosure notification process, PETA filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 4 – Predisclosure notification, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  2. JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Mar 4, 2015)
    Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State for records concerning any communications between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, and Nagla Mahmoud, the wife of ousted Egyptian president Muhammed Morsi, between January 2009 and January 2013. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Judicial Watch filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  3. v. Selby et al (filed Mar 3, 2015)
    Ricky Shelby, a prisoner at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, filed suit against Nurse Thomas, who Shelby alleged had improperly withheld his medical records. Shelby may have a cause of action under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, but not under the federal FOIA.
    Issues: FOIA not mentioned
  4. PIKE et al v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (filed Mar 2, 2015)
    Adam Pike and Bret Berry, owners/operators of Reliance Medical Systems, a manufacturer of implantable spinal devices, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Justice for an audio recording of a July 26, 2011 conversation between Berry, Pike and an unidentified physician that was used by DOJ as part of its case against Berry and Pike for violations of the False Claims Act. DOJ refused to disclose the recording, denying access on the basis of Exemption 5 (privileges) and Exemption 7(A) (interference with ongoing investigation or proceeding). Berry and Pike appealed to OIP, which upheld the denial on the basis of Exemption 7(A). Berry and Pike then filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 7(A) – Interference with ongoing investigation, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  5. Kozich v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development et al (filed Mar 2, 2015)
    Don Kozich submitted three requests for records to the Broward County Housing Authority concerning Progress Point. He alleged that BCHA received funds from both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Kozich alleged that BCHA did not respond properly and he finally filed suit. While part of his complaint deals with access to records, most of his complaint is for damages.
    Issues: FOIA mentioned only tangentially, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  6. Village of Hobart v. U.S. Department of the Interior et al (filed Mar 2, 2015)
    The Village of Hobart submitted a FOIA request to the Department of the Interior’s Division of Land Titles and Records for records showing title ownership of a number of trust lands located in the Village. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after hearing nothing further from the Division, the Village sent another letter asking about the status of its request. After again hearing nothing further from the agency, the Village filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  7. NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE v. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Mar 4, 2015)
    The National Security Archive submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State in 2001 for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations during his time as Secretary. Although some conversations have been released since NSA’s request, others have not been finalized for disclosure. NSA finally decided to file suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  8. WILDEARTH GUARDIANS v. OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION AND ENFORCEMENT (filed Mar 4, 2015)
    Wildlife Guardians submitted a FOIA request to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for records concerning the agency’s decision to deny Wildlife Guardians’ rulemaking petition to promulgate regulations providing protection for greater sage grouse and its habitat from the effects of coal mining. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request, but after it failed to respond, Wildlife Guardians filed an administrative appeal. The agency acknowledged receipt of the appeal, but told Wildlife Guardians that it would not be able to respond within the statutory time limit. Wildlife Guardians then filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  9. BAGWELL v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (filed Mar 4, 2015)
    Ryan Bagwell, the operator of the Penn State Sunshine Fund, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Education concerning Penn State’s compliance with the Clery Act and communications between the agency and the Freeh Group, which conducted the investigation of Jerry Sandusky. The agency indicated the request was voluminous and Bagwell asked for a fee waiver. The agency provided an interim response containing four pages, and a second interim response containing seven pages. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Bagwell filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  10. Hopson v. The People of the Superior Court of California (filed Mar 5, 2015)
    Shannon Hopson requested records from the clerk of the Superior Court for San Diego County concerning his criminal case. While Hopson has requested government records and cites FOIA as the basis for his claim, he is not requesting records from a federal agency and is rather requesting records from a California state court. This may provide a cause of action under the California Public Records Act, but it does not provide a cause of action under the federal FOIA.
    Issues: FOIA not mentioned
  11. Navigators Insurance Company et al v. Justice (filed Mar 5, 2015)
    Navigators Insurance Company submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for records pertaining to five named individuals associated with New England Cash Dispensing Systems and its affiliate, Integrated Merchants Systems who had been convicted of bank fraud. Navigators Insurance was being sued by a company trying to recover the proceeds of an insurance policy Navigators had issued to NECD and IMS. EOUSA told Navigators Insurance that any personally-identifying records were protected under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records), but that the agency would disclose any public records if Navigator Insurance requested them. Navigators Insurance did not appeal the denial, but instead submitted a request for all non-exempt records concerning the five individuals. Navigators Insurance later submitted a second FOIA request for all records pertaining to the two corporate entities, NECD and IMS. The agency acknowledged receipt of both requests, but after hearing nothing further from the agency, Navigators Insurance filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  12. Litman v. US Department of Homeland Security et al (filed Mar 6, 2015)
    Malia Litman, a retired attorney and current blogger on political issues, submitted seven FOIA requests to the Department of Homeland Security for records concerning various allegations and claims pertaining to the Secret Service. Although she appealed the agency’s actions on some of her requests, by the time she filed suit the agency had not disclosed any records.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  13. Cletta v. United States Department of Veterans Affairs et al (filed Mar 9, 2015)
    Catrina Cletta submitted a FOIA request through her attorney to the Department of Veterans Affairs for her claims file. Her request was emailed to the agency’s designated email address for such requests, but her request was returned as undeliverable. Cletta’s attorney contacted the VA and spoke to an employee who told her to send the request to his email address. Cletta’s attorney did so and sent another request to the designated email address as well, which, this time, was not returned as undeliverable. However, after hearing nothing further from the VA, Cletta filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  14. Osvaldo Rosa v. United States of America (filed Mar 10, 2015)
    Osvaldo Rosa, a federal prisoner, submitted a FOIA request to the Bureau of Prisons concerning transcripts for his email correspondence to several email accounts. The agency located 344 pages and told Rosa that he would need to pay $29. Rosa alleged that he paid the fee, but BOP contended it had not received payment. Rosa then filed suit.
    Issues: Fees – Advance Payment, Litigation – Jurisdiction – Failure to Exhaust
  15. ASSOCIATED PRESS v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Mar 11, 2015)
    The Associated Press submitted six FOIA requests to the Department of State for various records concerning Hillary Clinton’s official actions while Secretary of State. Only one of the six requests has been responded to in part. In the aftermath of the acknowledgement that Clinton used a personal email server for her official and personal email while she was Secretary of State, AP filed suit to force the agency to process and disclose her emails.
    Issues: Agency Record, Choice of format, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  16. COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE v. UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (filed Mar 11, 2015)
    The Competitive Enterprise Institute submitted a FOIA request to the EPA for emails sent to or from an alias email account in the name of Richard Windsor, which was apparently used by former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, to any other EPA employees in the Office of Administrator. The agency initially denied the request because it did not adequately describe the records sought. CEI filed an administrative appeal and the initial decision was overturned. EPA then denied CEI’s request for a fee waiver, which again was overturned on appeal. The EPA identified 120,000 records and indicated it would disclose them at a rate of 100 pages a month. CEI appealed the production schedule and the agency denied the appeal and indicated that it would accept no further appeals. CEI then appealed to OGIS, but after six months without a satisfactory resolution, CEI filed suit.
    Issues: Delay
  17. Gahagan v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (filed Mar 11, 2015)
    Michael Gahagan, an immigration attorney, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for Form I-485 for his client Lloyd Patterson, who is facing removal proceedings. The agency responded with 509 pages, 33 pages of which were referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and 11 pages that were withheld entirely. According to Gahagan, none of the pages contained the Form I-485 he had requested. Gahagan filed an appeal challenging the adequacy of the agency’s search. The agency responded by partially disclosing another 10 pages. Again, none of them were the Form I-485 Gahagan requested. Gahagan then filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Litigation – Attorney’s fees, Litigation – Vaughn index
  18. Microsoft Corporation v. Internal Revenue Service (filed Mar 11, 2015)
    Microsoft Corporation submitted four FOIA requests to the IRS for records concerning contracts awarded to two large law firms for representation of the agency and temporary and proposed regulations allowing such law firms to question witnesses in connection with IRS examinations. The IRS is currently conducting an audit of Microsoft’s federal taxes from 2004-2009. The agency acknowledged receipt of each request and indicated that it would be unable to respond within 20 days. Microsoft ultimately filed suit.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  19. Brown et al v. Customs and Border Protection (filed Mar 12, 2015)
    Meredith Brown and two other immigration attorneys, as well as 11 noncitizens have had FOIA requests pending at Customs and Border Protection for more than 20 days. They filed a class action suit against the agency requiring it to respond to FOIA requests pending for more than the 20 days required by the statute within 60 days of the court’s order.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  20. Brown et al v. Customs and Border Protection (filed Mar 12, 2015)
    Meredith Brown and two other immigration attorneys, as well as 11 noncitizens have had FOIA requests pending at Customs and Border Protection for more than 20 days. They filed a class action suit against the agency requiring it to respond to FOIA requests pending for more than the 20 days required by the statute within 60 days of the court’s order.
    Issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
  21. MELHEM v. JOHNSON et al (filed Mar 12, 2015)
    Yaccoub Melhem, a Lebanese citizen challenging his removal proceedings based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for his alien file. The agency withheld 92 pages in full, 114 pages in part, and referred 330 pages to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Melhem appealed the agency’s decision and USCIS disclosed 42 pages in full or in part. Melhem then filed suit.
    Issues: Exemption 6 – Invasion of privacy, Exemption 7(C) – Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records
  22. GAWKER MEDIA, LLC et al v. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (filed Mar 13, 2015)
    John Cook, a reporter for Gawker Media, submitted a FOIA request to the Department of State in 2012 for email communications between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines and 34 media outlets. The agency responded to Cook’s request by indicating that it could find no responsive records. Cook appealed and provided evidence of communications between Reines and Buzzfeed reporter Michael Hastings. State remanded Cook’s request for additional searches. However, after hearing nothing further from the agency, Gawker Media filed suit.
    Issues: Adequacy – Search, Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation – Attorney’s fees
Mar 18 15

FOIA Tales: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

by Greg Munno
Have you voted in for the biggest FOIA Failure yet? We asked six FOIA experts to pick a case they feel represents a noteworthy failure by a government agency to adequately respond to a FOIA request. Now we want YOU to vote for the worst of the worst. Here you’ll find the case summaries and poll and everything you’ll need to vote. Mobile users might have an easier time voting via the poll at http://wp.me/s4L10q-foiafail

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University specializes in using the Freedom of Information Act to collect, understand, structure, and analyze case-by-case data from federal agencies.

As such, it files a lot of FOIA requests, and has plenty of stories of agency heroics and horrors.

Lo and behold, right in the middle of Sunshine Week, another FOIA story came to TRAC’s door (TRAC administers the FOIA Project and this website).

We’ll call this one “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

The Good:  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent TRAC a letter to acknowledged that it had received TRAC’s FOIA request.

The Bad: TRAC sent said FOIA request on July 3, 2014. The acknowledgement was dated March 13, 2015 — 253 days later. We received the letter on March 17 (kudos to the U.S. Postal Service for fulfilling its end of the bargain). The letter does not explain or even acknowledge the delay.

The Ugly: This is the first acknowledgement TRAC has received from the ATF after sending it eight requests dating back to June 18, 2013. All the requests were for basic records related to the agency’s FOIA logs. To date, no data have been received.

atf

Mar 11 15

Vote for the Worst FOIA Failure

by Greg Munno

Biggest FOIA Fail?

Total Voters: 264

Loading ... Loading ...

Democracy depends on educated citizens who know what their government is doing. The Freedom of Information Act is the federal  law that empowers citizens to get  information about the government, from the government. Yet many agencies routinely ignore the law, and FOIA requests often fall into a bureaucratic black hole.

Every year, several hundred frustrated requesters sue in federal court for the documents they have been blocked from receiving. We’ve asked six prominent journalists, open government advocates, and lawyers to highlight the FOIA failure they feel represents the most egregious example of improper withholding under FOIA.

Now we want you to vote on the worst of the worst!

We closed voting at 10 this morning (3/20/15). The vote counts reflected in the poll at right are the final counts. They include votes left on a companion poll by Android users who had trouble with the one on this page. We’ll be posting more on the results soon.

read more…

Mar 11 15

Need a Sunshine Week or National FOI Day story?

by Greg Munno
swlogo2-1024x601

National Freedom of Information Day is Friday, and all of next week is Sunshine Week. These events honoring the importance of transparency and open government to our democracy are great pegs for stories about the Freedom of Information Act, the law that gives the public the right to obtain public documents.

Here’s a couple of ideas from TRAC’s FOIA Project.

read more…