District Court Decisions
Smith v. Commc'ns Works of Am. (CWA) District 2, No. 8:12-cv-00027-AW, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 181810 (S.D. Md. Dec. 26, 2012) (Williams, J.). Holding: Granting EEOC's motion to dismiss. The court determines that if the plaintiff's complaint was construed as one for injunctive relief, it would fail because the "EEOC complied with Plaintiff's request to release a copy of his charge file, making only mild redactions for deliberative process information."
Landmark Legal Found. v. EPA, No. 12-1726, 2012 WL 6644362 (D.D.C. Dec. 21, 2012) (Lamberth, J.). Holding: Denying motion for preliminary injunction. The court denies plaintiff's request for injunctive relief ordering expedited processing of its request. First, the court holds that plaintiff has not shown that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits because plaintiff has not shown that it is entitled to expedited processing. Second, plaintiff has also not demonstrated that it will suffer irreparable injury if the court does not order release of the records on an expedited basis. The court notes that given that the "agency has stated that it will complete processing of the request by the end of next month," it is difficult to see how denial of the injunction motion will cause irreparable harm. Additionally, even "[i]f the EPA did, for political reasons, delay a controversial proposed rule until after the presidential election, the Court fails to see how receiving this information in January will irreparably harm [plaintiff]." Plaintiff could still "publicize the information" and "launch legal challenges." Furthermore, even if the court ordered production, many of the records "could fall under exemptions to the FOIA and thus be withheld or redacted." Third, the court agrees that there would be no substantial injury to other interested parties, but concludes that this is insufficient to overcome the other prongs of the injunctive relief analysis. Fourth and finally, the court determines that the public interest would not be furthered by requiring EPA to disclose the records within three days. "The EPA has already stated that Landmark's request is 'at the top of the FOIA processing queue,' and that it 'anticipates completing the response to this request on or before January 31, 2012.'"
The court also denies plaintiff's request for injunctive relief "compelling preservation of responsive information." The court notes that plaintiff has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits. The court concludes that this case "does not demonstrate the need for an order compelling preservation of records." The court notes that "there is no indication that the EPA has or will destroy any records related to this request." The court also comments that "the mere 'potential of destruction' is not sufficient to demonstrate the need for such an order" and that "the EPA is already barred from destroying many records which would be responsive, for example, under the Federal Records Act." Second, plaintiff has not shown there would be irreparable injury because there is no indication that EPA will destroy the responsive records. Third, while there is no risk of substantial injury to other interested parties, this prong has little impact because plaintiff fails to meet the other factors. Finally, an injunction would not further the public interest because there is no indication that EPA may destroy records. Indeed, "EPA has submitted a sworn declaration from the employee overseeing the response to this FOIA request in which he states that there is a litigation hold requiring the preservation of records and that he will comply, to the best of his ability, with the obligation to preserve records."
Hajro v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., No. 08-1350, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117964 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 12, 2011) (Grewal,Mag.). Holding: Dismissing FOIA claims brought against individual defendants; holding that party who did not submit FOIA request at issue has standing to assert a "pattern or practice" claim under FOIA; granting declaratory relief that defendant engaged in pattern or practice of failing to abide by FOIA; granting plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief; concluding that defendant is required to release certain non-exempt information previously withheld pursuant to Exemption 5; concluding defendant's FOIA processing policy violates a previous settlement agreement as well as the terms of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the FOIA; dismissing a claim brought under APA; and granting partial summary judgment to defendants on plaintiffs' equal protection claims. The court awards summary judgment to plaintiffs on the basis that they have "establish[ed] a pattern or practice of FOIA violations" by USCIS's actions in repeatedly exceeding the twenty-day response time for requests. The court finds that "[d]efendants have not offered evidence to the contrary, pointed out inconsistencies in the record that would suggest a genuine issue of fact for trial, or come forward with even assertions that USCIS is in compliance with the timing requirements of FOIA." With respect to plaintiffs' request for a permanent injunction, the court notes that such relief is available "in order to remedy a pattern and practice of FOIA violations by an agency where there is 'a probability that alleged illegal conduct will recur in the future.'" Here, the court finds that injunctive relief is warranted based on the "repeated occurrence of the delays and lack of any indication by Defendants of efforts to cease such violations in the future," "the history of past violations by USCIS and its predecessor agency," and the fact that "the effect on the public of disclosure or nondisclosure is substantial where the information sought is not available through any other means." Based on these findings, the court grants plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief and "require[es] USCIS to: 1) provide a copy of the requestor's file within the twenty-day time limit mandated by 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(6)(A); and 2) give the written notice mandated by 5 U.S.C. §552 (a)(6)(B) if an extension of time is needed due to 'unusual circumstances.'"