FOIA Advisor

Court opinions issued Sept. 16 thru Sept. 18, 2015

Allan BlutsteinComment

Sept. 18, 2015

Stalcup v. Dep't of Def. (D. Mass.) -- ruling that Missile Defense Agency conducted a reasonable search for records concerning the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800, but that the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense had not adequately described its search methodology.  

Barouch v. U.S. Dep't of Justice (D.D.C.) -- determining that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives properly withheld grand jury subpoena and related records under Exemption 3 and Rule 6(e) of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and that no portion of those records was reasonably segregable. 

Sept. 17, 2015

Maryland v. U.S. Dep't of Veterans Affairs (D.D.C.) -- dismissing plaintiff's lawsuit after finding that: (1) plaintiff's dispute about fee category was moot because agency ultimately did not charge any fees; (2) agency properly invoked Exemption 6 to withhold the names of individuals that were contained in the email addresses of businesses whose applications were rejected for inclusion on the VetBiz database; (3) agency segregated and released non-exempt material; and (4) pro se plaintiff failed to administratively appeal certain issues or to raise others in his Amended Complaint or briefs.    

Brown v. U.S. Customs & Border Prot. (N.D. Cal.) -- denying government's motion to dismiss plaintiff's claim that agency violated FOIA by engaging in a pattern and practice of failing to respond to FOIA requests within the statutory timeline; further noting that the agency's response to dispositive case law "could not be less persuasive."

Sept. 16, 2015

Cause of Action v. Treasury Inspector Gen. for Tax Admin. (D.D.C.) -- granting government's summary judgment motion after court had rejected agency's Glomar response and ordered agency to search for records pertaining to any investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of return information to anyone in the Executive Office of the President.  The court found that agency's affidavits "could certainly [have been] more detailed" in describing search for records, but that there was "just enough" to rule in agency's favor.  Further, the court concluded that records located by agency were not responsive to the request, because plaintiff had clarified that it sought only records of investigations that had resulted in findings of unauthorized disclosure. 

Human Rights Watch. v. Dep't of Justice Fed. Bureau of Prisons (S.D.N.Y) -- granting in part and denying in part parties' motions for summary judgment concerning records about the detention conditions of individuals charged with or convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses.  The court largely upheld the agency's use of Exemptions 3, 6, and 7(C) to withhold certain information from five categories of requested records, but ordered agency to release discrete portions of records and to transmit certain information to court for in camera inspection.

 Summaries of all cases since April 15, 2015, are available here.