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ACLU of Ariz. v. DHS, No. 17-01083, 2020 WL 1494328 (D. Ariz. Mar. 27, 2020) (Humetewa, J.)


ACLU of Ariz. v. DHS, No. 17-01083, 2020 WL 1494328 (D. Ariz. Mar. 27, 2020) (Humetewa, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning defendant's implementation of certain executive orders

Disposition:  Granting plaintiff's motion for attorney fees; awarding plaintiff $76,928.80 in attorney fees and $400 in costs

  • Attorney Fees, Eligibility:  The court relates that "Defendants concede that Plaintiff is eligible for a fee award."  "[The] Court agrees with the parties that the filing of the action could reasonably have been regarded as necessary to obtain the information and that the filing of the action had a substantial causative effect on the delivery of the information."  "Accordingly, the Court finds that the eligibility requirement has been satisfied."
  • Attorney Fees, Entitlement:  The court holds that "because all four factors are met, Plaintiff is entitled to an award of attorneys' fees, in addition to being eligible for a fee award."  The court finds that "[t]here was a public benefit in this case."  "Plaintiff is a non-profit organization that, according to the Complaint, 'educates the public about the civil liberties implications of pending and proposed state and federal legislation, provides analysis of pending and proposed legislation, directly lobbies legislators, and mobilizes its members to lobby their legislators.'"  "There is no suggestion that Plaintiff used its FOIA request to subsidize a matter of private concern."  "Further, even if the documents Plaintiff received were not widely disseminated to the public, the information sought had public value."  "The Executive Orders were widely reported and were subject to public protests."  "The information sought by Plaintiff was valuable because it could provide further information regarding the implementation and practical impact of the Executive Orders."  "Therefore, the information sought had 'at least a modest probability of generating useful new information about a matter of public concern.'"  "In determining whether the public benefit factor is met, the court should assess 'the potential public value of the information sought, and not the public value of the information received.'"  "The Court thus finds that the public benefit factor is met."  The court relates that "Defendants do not contend that the remaining factors are not met, and the Court agrees that the factors support an award of attorneys' fees."  "First, Plaintiff did not secure a commercial benefit from disclosure . . . ."  "Likewise, because Plaintiff sought the documents in order to inform the public regarding the Executive Orders, Plaintiff's interest in the disclosed records also supports a finding of eligibility for fees."  "Finally, the Court finds that there was no reasonable basis in law for the government's withholding of the records."
  • Attorney Fees, Calculations:  First, regarding plaintiff's attorneys and paralegals, based on a declaration filed by plaintiff's attorneys, the court finds that "there is sufficient evidence to establish the reasonableness of the requested rates, based upon years of experience, as well as prior fee awards in comparable cases."  Second, "regarding the 'redacted' time entries, the Court appreciates the importance of maintaining attorney-client confidentiality and work-product privilege; therefore, the Court will award fees for attorney-client communications and communications between co-counsel, even when the specific contents of those communications are not stated."  "If, however, insufficient information is provided for the Court to determine whether a time-entry was necessary for this action, the Court will decline to award the claimed fees."  "Additionally, if such entries were block-billed, the Court will not award any of the claimed fees for that billable entry."  Third, the court finds that "upon review of the billing entries, there are a number of duplicative and inconsistent entries."  "In light of the duplicative and inconsistent entries, as well as the relative lack of complexity of this matter, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not established that the substantial time spent on counsel communications was efficient and essential."  Finally, "almost immediately after this Court issued its Order approving the production schedule, Plaintiff began preparing the Motion for Vaughn Index."  "Because the Motion was premature and unnecessary, the Court declines to award attorneys' fees associated with that Motion, resulting in a deduction from the fees requested."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Attorney Fees
Updated May 1, 2020