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Case TitleAMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2022cv01901
Date Filed2022-06-30
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge Dabney L. Friedrich
PlaintiffAMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION
Case DescriptionAmerica First Legal Foundation submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Education for records concerning political appointees and their ethics obligations. AFLF also asked for a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. The agency granted AFLF's request for a fee waiver. 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 EDUCATION
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Complaint attachment 4
Complaint attachment 5
Complaint attachment 6
Complaint attachment 7
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2022-06-301COMPLAINT against U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ( Filing fee $ 402 receipt number ADCDC-9343653) filed by AMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A:Dept of Educ Request, # 2 Exhibit B: Acknowledgment, # 3 Exhibit C:Fee Waiver Grant, # 4 Exhibit D:20-day Notification, # 5 Exhibit E: Interim Release, # 6 Civil Cover Sheet, # 7 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 Dabney L. Friedrich. (znmg) (Entered: 07/05/2022)
2022-07-053SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachment: # 1 Notice and Consent)(znmg) (Entered: 07/05/2022)
2022-07-074STANDARD ORDER for Civil Cases. See text for details. Signed by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on July 7, 2022. (lcdlf1) (Entered: 07/07/2022)
2022-07-275RETURN 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: 07/27/2022)
2022-07-276RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION served on 7/18/2022 (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of K. Robinson with Exhibits)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/27/2022)
2022-07-277RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 07/18/2022. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of K. Robinson with Exhibits)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/27/2022)
2022-08-048NOTICE of Appearance by Hannah Solomon-Strauss on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-049NOTICE of Appearance by Giselle Barcia on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (Barcia, Giselle) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-0410ANSWER to Complaint by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.(Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-04MINUTE ORDER requiring the parties to MEET AND CONFER and file a joint status report proposing a schedule for further proceedings. The status report should address the status of the plaintiff's FOIA request, including the anticipated number of documents responsive to the request and the anticipated date(s) for release of the requested documents. The parties shall file the joint status report on or before September 1, 2022. Signed by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on August 4, 2022. (lcdlf1) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-05NOTICE OF ERROR re 10 Answer to Complaint; emailed to hannah.m.solomon-strauss@usdoj.gov, cc'd 4 associated attorneys -- The PDF file you docketed contained errors: 1. Please note the following for future filings; do not refile document , 2. FYI: Attorney signature must match login/password for all future fillings. (zed, ) (Entered: 08/05/2022)
2022-08-2511NOTICE OF RELATED CASE by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. Case related to (Barcia, Giselle) (Main Document 11 replaced on 8/26/2022) (zed). (Entered: 08/25/2022)
2022-09-0112Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. (Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (Entered: 09/01/2022)
2022-09-02MINUTE ORDER. Upon consideration of the parties' 12 Joint Status Report, it is ORDERED that the parties shall submit another joint status report on or before September 30, 2022. So Ordered by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on September 2, 2022. (lcdlf1) (Entered: 09/02/2022)
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)
2022-09-3013Joint STATUS REPORT by AMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION. (Field, Brian) (Entered: 09/30/2022)
2022-09-30MINUTE ORDER. Upon consideration of the parties' 13 Joint Status Report, it is ORDERED that the parties shall submit another joint status report on or before November 4, 2022. So Ordered by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on September 30, 2022. (lcdlf1) (Entered: 09/30/2022)
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