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Blevins v. ATF, No. 21-0073, 2023 WL 2663220 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 28, 2023) (Robart, J.)


Blevins v. ATF, No. 21-0073, 2023 WL 2663220 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 28, 2023) (Robart, J.)

Re:  Requests for records concerning plaintiff’s criminal case

Disposition:  Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  “The court concludes that [plaintiff’s] unexhausted 2019 FOIA request is not relevant to the court’s adjudication of her claims regarding her 2020 FOIA request.”  “It is undisputed that [plaintiff] filed an administrative appeal regarding her 2020 FOIA request to OIP.”  “Although ATF attempts to argue that [plaintiff’s] failure to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to the 2019 FOIA request precludes this court’s review of her 2020 FOIA request . . . , it does not provide any legal authority for the position that a plaintiff is barred from bringing a suit for a new FOIA request for mere failure to administratively exhaust an earlier, similar FOIA.”
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  First, the court holds that “where, as here, an agency responds to a plaintiff’s first FOIA request, but fails to adequately respond to her second, nearly identical request, . . . a court may be justified in considering the full context of her requests without frustrating the purposes of FOIA.”  “In other words, if the agency’s first response was adequate as a matter of law, requiring exactly the same response to a subsequent request may be unnecessary.”  “Here, the court must determine whether ATF’s response to [plaintiff’s] 2020 FOIA request was adequate beyond material doubt, since that is the only request for which [plaintiff] administratively exhausted her appeal (and therefore, the only request before the court).”  “But, because the 2019 and 2020 FOIA requests were largely duplicative, the court will consider whether responses to both requests were adequate.”  “The court, reviewing ATF’s response de novo, finds that ATF’s 2019 search was adequate beyond material doubt.”  “ATF submitted reasonably detailed, nonconclusory affidavits in good faith, which spelled out how ATF conducted its search.”  Additionally, “[t]he court finds that ATF’s 2020 search was adequate beyond a material doubt.”  The court finds that “ATF submitted evidence establishing that (1) it conducted an adequate search in response to the 2019 request and (2) a duplicative search in response to the 2020 request would likely produce the same set of documents it has already provided [plaintiff].”
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Updated May 1, 2023