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Case TitleAMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2022cv01895
Date Filed2022-06-30
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Tanya S. Chutkan
PlaintiffAMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION
Case DescriptionAmerica First Legal Foundation submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Health and Human Services for records concerning political appointees and their ethics obligations. AFLF also asked for a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request but after hearing nothing further from the agency, AFLF filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Complaint attachment 6
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Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2022-06-301COMPLAINT against U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES ( Filing fee $ 402 receipt number ADCDC-9343303) filed by AMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A:HHS Request, # 2 Exhibit B:Initial Acknowledgment, # 3 Exhibit C:Update Letter, # 4 Exhibit D:Status Request, # 5 Civil Cover Sheet, # 6 Summons)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 06/30/2022)
2022-07-012LCvR 26.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by AMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION (Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/01/2022)
2022-07-05Case Assigned to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan. (zmh) (Entered: 07/05/2022)
2022-07-053SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachment: # 1 Notice and Consent)(zmh) (Entered: 07/05/2022)
2022-07-264RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 7/5/2022. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 8/4/2022. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of K. Robinson with Exhibits)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/26/2022)
2022-07-265RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES served on 7/13/2022 (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of K. Robinson with Exhibits)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/26/2022)
2022-07-266RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 07/14/2022. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of K. Robinson with Exhibits)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/26/2022)
2022-08-047NOTICE of Appearance by Giselle Barcia on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES (Barcia, Giselle) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-048NOTICE of Appearance by Hannah Solomon-Strauss on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES (Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-049ANSWER to Complaint by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES.(Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-05MINUTE ORDER: Before the Court in this FOIA case are a complaint and an answer. The requirements of LCvR 16.3 and Rule 26(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil procedure appear to be inapplicable. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the parties shall meet and confer and propose a schedule for proceeding in this matter. The schedule shall address the status of Plaintiff's FOIA request, the anticipated number of documents responsive to Plaintiff's FOIA request, the anticipated date(s) for release of the documents requested by Plaintiff, whether a motion for an Open America stay is likely in this case, whether a Vaughn index will be required in this case, whether and when either party anticipates filing a dispositive motion, and any other pertinent issues. The parties shall file a joint status report that addresses these issues no later than 9/23/22. The joint status report shall be accompanied by a proposed order. Signed by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on 8/5/22. (DJS) (Entered: 08/05/2022)
2022-08-07Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 9/23/2022. (tb) (Entered: 08/07/2022)
2022-08-2510NOTICE OF RELATED CASE by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES. Case related to (Barcia, Giselle) (Main Document 10 replaced on 8/29/2022) (znmw). (Entered: 08/25/2022)
2022-09-02MINUTE ORDER. Plaintiff has filed eleven FOIA cases in this court against eleven different federal government agencies, seeking from each records sufficient to identify 1) all employees who entered a position in the agency as a political appointee since January 20, 2021 or 2) all career employees who were detailed to a position eligible to be filled by a political appointee or to a new position through coordination or consultation with either the White House Liaison or Presidential Personnel Office since January 20, 2021. See Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 1:22-cv-01884-ABJ; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 1:22-cv-01888-RDM; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Services, 1:22-cv-01895-TSC; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Security, 1:22-cv-01896-CJN; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of State, 1:22-cv-01897-CJN; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Transportation, 1:22-cv-01898-ABJ; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 1:22-cv-01899-TSC; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 1:22-cv-01900-ABJ; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Education, 1:22-cv-01901-DLF; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, 1:22-cv-01903-BAH; Am. First Legal Found. v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, 1:22-cv-01905-CKK. Plaintiff has filed a notice of related case in each case, asserting that all of the cases are related under Local Civil Rule 40.5. Plaintiff maintains that they raise common issues of fact and law because they involve identical FOIA requests, and will, plaintiff predicts, result in similar document productions and involve similar FOIA exemptions. If the cases were related, Rule 40.5(c)(1) would direct that they be reassigned to the judge with the oldest pending case, which is America First Legal Foundation v. U.S. Department of Commerce, 1:22-cv-01884-ABJ. Upon review of plaintiff's notice of related case, though, the Court concludes that the eleven cases are not related under Local Rule 40.5. While the requests themselves called for the same types of records, that does not mean that litigation involving the agencies' responses will present common issues to be resolved. Summary judgment motions often test the adequacy of the search, and here, the requests were transmitted to eleven different agencies, with their own hiring processes, record keeping systems, and custodians. Each agency's effort to identify and produce documents responsive to plaintiff's request will involve searching the files of different custodians in different locations and on different systems, using terms appropriate to the agency, and the questions presented when each agency announces that the search has been completed will be different. Even the early stages of the litigation, when production schedules are established, will vary from agency to agency depending upon the volume of responsive material and the agency's FOIA resources. Moreover, the legitimacy of any claimed exemptions, another issue that can be litigated on summary judgment, may vary depending upon the mission of the agency, including whether it has a law enforcement function and the volume of classified material essential to its work. In sum, despite the similarity of the requests, it is not apparent now that the facts and law to be considered in determining whether each agency has complied with FOIA will be the same, and the cases will not be reassigned pursuant to Local Rule 40.5. This order does not rule out the possibility that cases could be consolidated in the future for the consideration of a common question of law. SO ORDERED. Signed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson on 09/02/2022. (DMK) (Entered: 09/02/2022)
2022-09-2311Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES. (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (Entered: 09/23/2022)
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