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Court of Appeals Decisions

Shannahan v. IRS, 672 F.3d 1142 (9th Cir. Mar. 13, 2012) (Fletcher, J.).  Holding:  Affirming the district court's ruling that the IRS properly withheld information pursuant to Exemptions 3 and 7(A).  In reviewing summary judgment in a FOIA case, the Ninth Circuit first "decide[s] de novo if the district court's ruling was supported by an adequate factual basis" and then "review[s] 'the district court's conclusions of fact . . . for clear error, while legal rulings, including its decision that a particular exemption applies, are reviewed de novo."

Hulstein v. DEA, No. 11-2039, 2012 WL 671964 (8th Cir. Mar. 2, 2012) (Bright, J.).  Reversing the judgment of the district court; and concluding that DEA properly withheld certain information pursuant to Exemptions 7(C) and 7(D).  The Eighth Circuit "review[s] the applicability of FOIA exemptions de novo."

Yonemoto v. VA, No. 10-15180, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 1108 (9th Cir. Jan. 18, 2012) (Berzon, J.) (amended op.).  Holding:  Reversing the district court's decision that the VA's offer to provide certain emails to plaintiff in an unredacted form with restrictions on distribution mooted his FOIA claims, and remanding for court to consider the VA's claims of exemption on those records; vacating district court's decision as to certain withholdings under Exemption 6, and remanding for further consideration of those withholdings.  The Ninth Circuit "consider[s], de novo, whether the VA's offer of 157 of the disputed emails to [plaintiff] in his capacity as a VA employee mooted his claim to those emails under the FOIA" and "evaluat[es], de novo, whether the district court had an adequate factual basis to undertake the balancing of interests" in connection with information withheld pursuant to Exemption 6.

Wadhwa v. VA, No. 11-1718, 2011 WL 4495600 (3d Cir. Sept. 29, 2011) (per curiam)(unpublished disposition).  Holding:  Affirming the district court's decision to grant summary judgment with respect to information redacted pursuant to Exemption 6; vacating and remanding with respect to the district court's determination regarding the adequacy of the VA's search.  The Third Circuit employs "a two-tiered test in reviewing an order of a District Court granting summary judgment in proceedings seeking disclosure under the FOIA."  First, the Third Circuit "'decide[s] whether the district court had an adequate factual basis for its determination'; and, second, . . . '''decide[s] whether that determination was clearly erroneous.'" 

Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Office of the USTR, No. 10-35102, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 19197 (9th Cir. Sept.16, 2011) (unpublished disposition).  Holding:  Vacating the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant; and remanding for further proceedings.  The Ninth Circuit employs a two-step standard of review in FOIA cases.  First, the Ninth Circuit "review[s] de novo 'whether the district court had an adequate factual basis for its decision.'"  Second, the Ninth Circuit "'review[s] the district court's [findings] of fact for clear error, while legal rulings, including [the district court's] decision that a particular exemption applies, are reviewed de novo."    

ACLU v. DOJ,Nos. 10-5159 & 10-5167, 2011 WL 3890837 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 6, 2011) (Garland, J.).  Holding:  Affirming the district court's order requiring release of specified documents; but vacating the balance of the district court's decision, and remanding for further development of the record.  The D.C. Circuit "review[s] the district court's disposition on summary judgment de novo."

Robert v. DOJ, No. 09-4684, 2011 WL 3890446 (2d. Cir. Sept. 6, 2011) (unpublished disposition).  Holding:  Affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants with respect to multiple FOIA cases; and modifying the district court's final judgment to clarify that the court's filing injunction with respect to plaintiff applies only to future complaints raising FOIA claims and not to FOIA requests.  The Second Circuit "review[s] de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment under FOIA" and "review[s] for abuse of discretion a district court's decision to impose a filing injunction, or 'leave-to-file' sanctions under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651." 

Hull v. IRS, No. 10-1410, 2011 WL 3835402 (10th Cir. Aug. 31, 2011) (Baldock, J.).  Holding:  Rejecting the district court's conclusion that it was jurisdictionally barred from deciding plaintiffs' FOIA claim on the merits; but affirming the district court's judgment in favor of the IRS on the grounds that the IRS properly invoked Exemption 3 with respect to all requested records because they pertained to a third party's return information; and concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to conduct an in camera review.  The Tenth Circuit "review[s] a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same legal standard used by the district court, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party – in this case, in favor of Plaintiffs."

Yonemoto v. VA, No. 10-15180, 2011 WL 3606596 (9th Cir. Aug. 17, 2011) (Berzon, J.).  Holding:  Reversing the district court's decision that the VA's offer to provide certain emails to plaintiff in an unredacted form with restrictions on distribution mooted his FOIA claims, and remanding for court to consider the VA's claims of exemption on those records; vacating district court's decision as to certain withholdings under Exemption 6, and remanding for further consideration of those withholdings.  The Ninth Circuit "consider[s], de novo, whether the VA's offer of 157 of the disputed emails to [plaintiff] in his capacity as a VA employee mooted his claim to those emails under the FOIA" and "evaluat[es], de novo, whether the district court had an adequate factual basis to undertake the balancing of interests" in connection with information withheld pursuant to Exemption 6.

Roth v. DOJ, 642 F.3d 1161 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (Tatel, J.).  Holding:  Affirming, in part, the district court's decision that the FBI properly withheld certain information pursuant to Exemptions 7(C) and 7(D); and reversing, in part, the district court's approval of the FBI's Glomar response and certain information withheld pursuant to Exemption 7(D); and remanding for further proceedings.  The D.C. Circuit reviews de novo the district court's summary judgment decision.

Cent. Platte Nat. Res. Dist. v. USDA, 643 F.3d 1142 (8th Cir. 2011) (Murphy, J.).  Holding:  Affirming the district court's ruling which granted summary judgment to the USDA on the basis that it properly withheld the requested geospatial data pursuant to Exemption 3 and dismissed plaintiff's Administrative Procedure Act claim.  The Eighth Circuit "review[s] de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment, viewing all facts and making all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." 

Prudential Locations LLC v. HUD, No. 09-16995, 2011 WL 2276206 (9th Cir. June 9, 2011) (Berzon, J.).  Holding:  Vacating the district court's grant of summary judgment to HUD and remanding the matter for further proceedings.  The Ninth Circuit reviews "under a de novo standard whether an adequate factual basis exists to support the district court's decision."  "If the district court did not have an adequate factual basis, [the Ninth Circuit] remand[s]."  "'If an adequate factual basis exists, then the district court's conclusions of fact are reviewed for clear error, while legal rulings, including its decision that a particular exemption applies, are reviewed de novo.'"  

McKinley v. Bd. of Gvn'rs of the Fed. Reserve Sys., No. 10-5353, 2011 WL 2162896 (D.C. Cir. June 3, 2011) (Henderson, J.).  Holding:  Affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Board based on its finding that the Board's withholdings pursuant to Exemption 5 were appropriate.  The D.C. Circuit reviews the "district court's grant of summary judgment de novo."

Watkins v. U.S. Bureau of Customs & Border Protect., No. 09-35996, 2011 WL 1709852 (9th Cir. May 6, 2011) (Walter, J.).  Holding:  Affirming the district court's decision that Exemption 4 applies to the requested material, but concluding that CBP has waived that protection; and reversing the district court's determination that DHS's regulations control, rather than CBP's regulations, for FOIA fee purposes.  The Ninth Circuit applies a two-step standard of review for FOIA cases.  First, it determines "whether, de novo, 'an adequate factual basis exists to support the district court's decisions'" and, second, it then reviews "the district court's conclusions of fact for clear error, while legal rulings, including its decision that a particular exemption applies, are reviewed de novo." 

United Technologies Corp. v. DOD, Nos. 08-5435 & 08-5436, 2010 WL 1030053 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 23, 2010) (Henderson, J.). Reverse FOIA suits are brought under the Administrative Procedures Act, under which the court "will reverse the agency action only if it is 'arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.' . . . This 'standard is narrow and a court is not to substitute its judgment for that of the agency. Nevertheless, the agency must examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action including a ' rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.'"

District Court Decisions

Bensman v. Nat'l Park Serv., No. 10-1910, 2011 WL 3489507 (D.D.C. Aug. 10, 2011) (Boasberg, J.).  Holding:  Concluding that because defendant exceeded the statutory time limit for responding to a FOIA request, it cannot assess search fees.  The court notes that under the FOIA in reviewing agency determinations on fee waiver requests, the court's review is de novo, but is limited to the administrative record.

Nat'l Bus. Aviation Ass'n v. FAA, No. 09-1089, 2010 WL 675529 (D.D.C. Feb. 26, 2010) (Collyer, J.). Reverse FOIA cases are brought under the Administrative Procedures Act and the scope of review is "narrow." "The agency action under review is 'entitled to a presumption of regularity' and the court must consider only whether the agency decision was based on relevant factors and whether there has been a clear error of judgment."

Gen. Elec. Co. v. Dep't of the Air Force, No. 01-1549, 2009 WL 2749359 (D.D.C. Aug. 28, 2009) (Blake, J.). Reverse FOIA cases arise under the APA and are reviewed under the "arbitrary and capricious" standard based on the administrative record available to the agency.

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