Skip to main content

Beagles v. Dep't of Labor, No. 16-506, 2019 WL 1085170 (D.N.M. Mar. 7, 2019) (Gonzales, J.)


Beagles v. Dep't of Labor, No. 16-506, 2019 WL 1085170 (D.N.M. Mar. 7, 2019) (Gonzales, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning charge plaintiff brought against former employer

Disposition:  Granting defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  The court holds that "Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies as to any documents other than Exhibits A-D attached to his FOIA appeal."  The court relates that plaintiff sent in two letters.  First, "[t]he Court . . . finds that it is not reasonably apparent that Plaintiff’s [October 1, 2013] letter was a FOIA appeal."  The court explains that it "does not comply with Defendant's appeal process because it: (1) does not provide any grounds for an appeal; (2) does not state that it is a FOIA appeal; and (3) was not sent to the Solicitor of Labor at the Washington, D.C. address for appeals."  "In contrast, Plaintiff’s December 15, 2013, letter is titled 'Freedom of Information Act Appeal,' provides specific grounds for Plaintiff's appeal of four documents, and is correctly addressed to the Solicitor of Labor in Washington, D.C."  "Moreover, because Plaintiff narrowed the scope of his appeal to Exhibits A-D, it is not reasonably apparent that he intended to appeal the withholding of any other information."  Also, "the Court finds the purposes of exhaustion under FOIA have not been met for documents that were not part of Plaintiff's FOIA appeal."
  • Exemption 6:  The court holds that "Defendant properly redacted information pursuant to Exemption 6."  The court relates that defendant withheld "home addresses, phone numbers, names, and other information that is directly attributable to individuals other than Plaintiff."  "[T]he Court agrees with Defendant that there is a privacy interest in this withheld information and that disclosure would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."  Also, the court finds that "because the redacted information reveals little or nothing about Defendant or its conduct, it 'falls outside the ambit of the public interest that the FOIA was enacted to serve.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal:  The court relates that "Defendant released all nonexempt information pursuant to Plaintiff's FOIA appeal."  "Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff's timeliness claim is moot."
  • Attorney Fees:  "[T]he Court finds that Plaintiff has not established that he substantially prevailed on his FOIA claim."  "Here, there has been no court order, enforceable written agreement, or consent decree for the production of the requested information, and there is no evidence that the information was produced by any voluntary or unilateral change in position by Defendant."  "Instead, Plaintiff argues he should be awarded attorney's fees because Defendant did not respond to his FOIA appeal for close to five years."  "The Court is sympathetic that there was a significant delay in Defendant's response to Plaintiff's FOIA appeal."  "Nevertheless, to show that he substantially prevailed, Plaintiff must demonstrate the litigation caused the agency to release the information, and 'causation requires more than correlation.'"  "Plaintiff makes no argument or showing that Defendant produced the requested information due to anything other than Defendant's consideration and processing of Plaintiff's FOIA appeal."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Attorney Fees
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal
Updated January 11, 2022