Thursday, March 19, 2015
Balch & Bingham, LLP v. HHS, No. 14-28, 2015 WL 1268024 (N.D. Ala. Mar. 19, 2015) (Acker, Jr., J.)
Re: Request for records concerning certain drugs related to Medicare Part D
Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal: In response to defendant's argument that its "tendering of all non-exempt records effectively moots [plaintiff's] claim for injunctive relief under FOIA," the court finds that "[w]hile [plaintiff] has filed no response to the motion, a live case and controversy persists as to the appropriateness of the asserted exemptions by HHS." "Therefore, the issue is not moot and the court has jurisdiction over the matter to address the merits of HHS's motion for summary judgment."
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: The court finds that "[u]pon review of the evidence and in the absence of any objection by [plaintiff], as a matter of law the search conducted by HHS was reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents." The court explains that "HHS provides two affidavits from HHS officials detailing the search scope and procedures used in response to [plaintiff's] FOIA request."
- Exemptions 4, 5 & 6: The court finds that "[g]iven the affidavits and Vaughn Index provided by HHS, and the absence of any objection by [plaintiff], HHS states an adequate factual basis for withholding the listed information." The court relates that "HHS relied on FOIA exemptions four, five, and six." "Under exemption four . . . HHS redacted the internal guidelines of a Medicare Part D sponsor and other information voluntarily provided by outside organizations." "Under exemption five . . . HHS redacted various draft agency documents, internal discussions, staff deliberations, and agency general counsel legal advice." "Finally, under exemption six . . . HHS withheld certain personal information pertaining to named individuals."
Adequacy of Search
Updated June 18, 2015