FOIA Advisor

Court Opinions (2018)

Court opinion issued Sept. 20, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Bernegger v. Exec. Office for U.S. Attorneys (D.D.C.) -- determining that: (1) EOUSA performed reasonable search for communications of prosecutors involved in plaintiff’s criminal case; (2) EOUSA properly relied on Exemptions 6 and 7(C) to withhold records about third parties, but that additional briefing was necessary with respect to one email exchanged between agency and federal trial court; and (3) EOUSA justified its withholdings under deliberative process privilege, except for one email exchanged between agency and trial court that required in camera review.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinions issued Sept. 19, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Clervrain v. United States (D. Kan.) -- finding that: (1) Federal Bureau of Prisons properly aggregated plaintiff’s three requests because they sought similar records and were submitted by plaintiff on same day; (2) plaintiff failed to appeal agency’s denial of his fee waiver request and therefore court could not consider it.

Linder v. EOUSA (D.D.C.) -- dismissing case as moot because agency provided plaintiff with all records to which he was entitled for free, as plaintiff expressly requested.

Climate Investigations Ctr. v. Dep’t of Energy (D.D.C.) — concluding that: (1) agency performed reasonable search for records concerning clean-coal technology at Mississippi power plant; (2) agency properly withheld records pursuant to Exemption 4 based on impairment and competitive harm theories; (3) agency properly withheld certain records pursuant to attorney-client privilege, but could not rely on privilege to withhold agency communications that included private company’s counsel; and (4) agency properly relied on deliberative process privilege to withhold disputed records originating from agency headquarters, but did not provide sufficient evidence to permit court to evaluate propriety of withholdings made by agency’s National Energy Technology Laboratory; (5) names of third parties had not been previously disclosed publicly, as court initially found, but agency did not properly perform balancing test of private and public interests required by Exemption 6.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinions issued Sept. 18, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Ctr. for Pub. Integrity v. FEC (D.D.C.) -- finding that agency properly relied on deliberative process privilege to withhold records pertaining to “@altFEC” Twitter account, as well as communications from Executive Office of President to certain senior FEC employees.

Crisman v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- ruling that: (1) FBI performed adequate search for records pertaining to plaintiff, but failed to justify use of deliberative process privilege to withhold records; (2) FRB was not required to conduct additional search based on new information provided by plaintiff almost three years after FRB completed its initial search'; and (3) plaintiff’s request to DHS would require burdensome search, but denying summary judgment to government because DHS failed to propose ways to narrow request.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinions issued Sept. 14, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Mabie v. U.S. Marshal's Serv. (S.D. Ill.) -- ruling that city jail and city police department were not agencies subject to federal Freedom of Information Act.

Property of the People v. OMB (D.D.C.) -- holding that: (1) OMB improperly relied on deliberative process privilege to withhold factual information from OMB Director’s calendar, such as names of schedulers, names of meeting attendees, and the locations of meetings; and (2) OMB’s filings were too vague to permit court to evaluate whether disputed calendar entries were protected from disclosure solely pursuant to presidential communications privilege or in conjunction with deliberative process privilege.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinions issued Sept. 13, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Niskanen Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't of Energy (D.D.C.) -- concluding that: (1) agency failed to perform reasonable search for records concerning federal advisory committee, namely National Coal Coalition or its incorporated counterpart NCC, Inc.; and (2) agency improperly withhold certain records pursuant to Exemption 4, because they were obtained involuntarily (contrary to agency’s claim) and agency failed to show that disclosure would likely cause substantial competitive harm; and (3) further briefing was required to determine whether on document was privileged under Exemption 4.

Cause of Action Inst. v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- deciding after in camera review that: (1) DOJ improperly relied on attorney-client and deliberative process privileges to withhold portion of email between White House and Office of Information and Privacy concerning House Committee’s directive to agencies to withhold congressional records; (2) DOJ properly relied on same privileges to withhold communications among three DOJ components and undisclosed federal agency about same subject; and (3) it was unnecessary to resolve parties’ disagreement as to whether FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 raised requirement for withholding records.

Prechdel v. FCC -- finding that: (1) agency properly relied on deliberative process privilege to withhold communications among agency staff regarding public inquiry about proposed “Restoring Internet Freedom” regulations; (2) agency improperly invoked Exemption 6 to withhold email addresses of email associated with “bulk comment” submissions; (3) .CSV files themselves also could not be protected by Exemption 6, and ordering parties to meet and confer about their availability; and (4) agency properly invoked Exemption 7(E) to withhold electronic server logs detailing all dates and times that .CSV files were submitted.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinion issued Sept. 12, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Hillier v. CIA (D.D.C.) — ruling that: (1) CIA performed adequate search for unclassified records concerning plaintiff, who believes he is under surveillance, and that agency properly refused to confirm or deny existence of classified records pursuant to Exemptions 1 and 3; (2) DHS performed adequate search for records about plaintiff, who claimed he might have been mistaken for suspected terrorist, except with respect to one system of records; and (3) Department of State performed reasonable search for records concerning plaintiff’s alleged involvement in terrorist incidents.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinion issued Sept. 10, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Am. Ctr. for Law & Justice v. U.S. Dep't of State (D.D.C.) -- finding that: (1) agency properly relied on deliberative process privilege to withhold portions of 14 of 16 emails pertaining to video of 2013 briefing about Iran that agency altered; (2) agency properly redacted two documents pursuant to attorney-client privilege; and (3) agency did not justify withholding one email pursuant to presidential communications privilege.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinions issued Sept. 6-7, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Sept. 7, 2018

James Madison Proj. v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- concluding that government properly invoked Exemption 7(A) in refusing to confirm or deny existence of records indicating whether President Trump is or was ever target of or material witness to any investigation, and that public statements by President Trump and DOJ did not invalidate government's Glomar response. 

King & Spalding v. HHS (D.D.C.) -- finding that: (1) Executive Office for United States Attorneys did not perform adequate search for records pertaining to investigation of plaintiff's client (Abiomed, a medical device company), because agency's declaration did not identify terms used to search three of four email files; (2) EOUSA failed to demonstrate that material provided to government about Abiomed by unidentified individual or entity was protected by Exemption 7(D); and (3) EOUSA properly relied on Exemptions 6 and 7(C) to withhold name of counsel who had transmitted material to government on behalf of unidentified individual or entity, but name of counsel's law firm was not protected from disclosure.

Am. Ctr. for Law & Justice v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- ruling that: (1) plaintiff waived its right to challenge adequacy of DOJ's search for records pertaining to June 2016 airplane meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Clinton, because plaintiff failed to raise search issue in joint status report; (2) DOJ properly relied on deliberative process privilege to redact ten of twelve documents consisting of discussions and talking points about how to handle press inquiries about airplane meeting.

Sept. 6, 2018

Montgomery v. IRS (D.D.C.) -- finding that: (1) IRS properly invoked Exemption 7(D) in refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records pertaining to whistleblower involved in investigation of plaintiffs, despite agency's error in not raising Glomar response during administrative stage; (2) IRS did not perform reasonable search for other records pertaining to agency's investigation of plaintiffs. 

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinion issued August 31, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Ernest Asiedu Odei & Spirit of Grace Outreach. v. DHS (N.D. Ill.) -- determining that: (1) DHS performed reasonable search for records concerning denial of entry and detention of Ghanaian national, and (2) DHS "honored" disputed FOIA requests by releasing all documents with redactions and that plaintiffs did not object to Vaughn Index.   

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.