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Case TitleAMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2022cv01903
Date Filed2022-06-30
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeChief Judge Beryl A. Howell
PlaintiffAMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION
Case DescriptionAmerica First Legal Foundation submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Interior for records concerning political appointees and their ethics obligations. AFLF also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. The agency disclosed 85 pages in response to the request. After hearing nothing further from the agency, AFLF filed suit.
Complaint issues: Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantU.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
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 THE INTERIOR ( Filing fee $ 402 receipt number ADCDC-9343674) filed by AMERICA FIRST LEGAL FOUNDATION. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A: Interior Request, # 2 Exhibit B: Acknowledgment, # 3 Exhibit C: Interim Response, # 4 Exhibit D:Status Update Request, # 5 Exhibit E: Status Update, # 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 Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell. (znmg) (Entered: 07/05/2022)
2022-07-053SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachment: # 1 Notice and Consent)(znmg) (Entered: 07/05/2022)
2022-07-054STANDING ORDER. Signed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on July 5, 2022. (lcbah4) (Entered: 07/05/2022)
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 w/Exhibits)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/27/2022)
2022-07-276RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR served on 7/18/2022 (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of K. Robinson w/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 07/20/2022. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of K. Robinson w/Exhibits)(Field, Brian) (Entered: 07/27/2022)
2022-08-048NOTICE of Appearance by Hannah Solomon-Strauss on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR (Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-049NOTICE of Appearance by Giselle Barcia on behalf of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR (Barcia, Giselle) (Entered: 08/04/2022)
2022-08-0410ANSWER to Complaint by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR.(Solomon-Strauss, Hannah) (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)
2022-08-1811Joint STATUS REPORT by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. (Barcia, Giselle) (Entered: 08/18/2022)
2022-08-19MINUTE ORDER (paperless) DIRECTING, upon consideration of the parties' 11 Joint Status Report, the parties to submit a joint status report by October 18, 2022, with a proposed schedule to govern further proceedings in this matter. Signed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on August 19, 2022. (lcbah4) (Entered: 08/19/2022)
2022-08-22Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 10/18/2022. (hmc) (Entered: 08/22/2022)
2022-08-2512NOTICE OF RELATED CASE by U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. Case related to (Barcia, Giselle) (Main Document 12 replaced on 8/26/2022) (zed). (Main Document 12 replaced on 8/26/2022) (zed). (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)
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