Am. Ctr. for Equitable Treatment v. OMB, No. 16-01820, 2017 WL 6501756 (D.D.C. Dec. 19, 2017) (Mehta, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning Paperwork Reduction Act, review of "'information collection requests'" and petitions for review of collected information, and interpretation or application of certain regulations of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying in part plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: The court holds that "OMB's declaration . . . is inadequate because it does not explain why the agency limited its search for responsive records to those created on or after January 20, 2009, when in two instances Plaintiff asked for a different time period." Notably, the court finds that "[defendant] does not distinguish between hard copy and electronic records, an important distinction in this case given that responsive records turned up only through e-mail searches." "To fulfill its FOIA obligations, OMB either must expand the temporal scope of its search to the time periods requested by Plaintiff . . . or supplement its declaration to explain why using Plaintiff's preferred dates is inconsistent with the standard of reasonableness." "The court reaches a similar conclusion with respect to Plaintiff's challenge to the agency's choice of search terms." "[T]he court cannot determine based on [defendant's] declarations whether the agency's search terms satisfy the standard of reasonableness." The court finds that "Plaintiff makes a persuasive case that, for at least some targeted searches, it seemingly would have been logical for the agency to have used the abbreviation or term commonly used in the industry to run searches through the relevant e-mails."