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Carmody & Torrance v. Def. Contract Mgmt. Agency, No. 11-1738, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33130 (D. Conn. Mar. 13, 2014) (Hall, J.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Carmody & Torrance v. Def. Contract Mgmt. Agency, No. 11-1738, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33130 (D. Conn. Mar. 13, 2014) (Hall, J.)

Re: Request for certain records concerning Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment; granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Considerations, Time Limits:  The court holds that "DCMA's repeated lengthy delays in handling this FOIA Request, while worrisome, do not entitle [plaintiff] to summary judgment."  The court explains that "[w]here the agency fails to reply within the statutorily allotted 20 days or, in unusual circumstances, 30 days, the recourse under FOIA is litigation in federal court."  "That is, the requester is 'deemed to have exhausted his administrative remedies' and, hence, may sue immediately to compel disclosure."  The court explains that "[t]he affidavits submitted by DCMA indicate that 'unusual circumstances' apply here, because the agency had to search for materials from 2004 that were already archived or housed outside its central office."  Nevertheless, the court finds that "DCMA's first email to [plaintiff] fell outside even the extended 30-day statutory period permitted in such circumstances."  Plaintiff "was free to file the present FOIA action anytime thereafter."
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court finds that "[t]he declarations of [defendant] establish that DCMA's search was adequate."  The court notes that "DCMA conducted keyword and Contract-specific searches of the available electronic databases," "[i]t examined records retrieved from a National Archives Center," and "[a]t [plaintiff's] request, it also referred the FOIA Request to [the Defense Contract Audit Agency], which disclosed audits that were then examined by DCMA."  The court concludes that "[t]ogether, these methods were reasonably calculated to discover materials responsive to the FOIA Request."
  • Exemption 4:  The court holds that "with respect to the bulk of withheld information . . . DCMA has adequately justified non-disclosure on the basis of Exemption 4."  The court finds that "[b]y Sikorsky's own representation, the company currently faces actual competition in a bid for another U.S. government contract to build helicopters."  Additionally, the court finds that "[d]isclosure of such information would likely give competitors advantages in future bids against Sikorsky . . . [a]nd Sikorsky does not disclose such information to the public."  However, the court finds that certain withheld information "does not contain commercial data" and the disclosure of other information, "consist[ing] principally of descriptions of equipment removal, locations, and corresponding costs," would not cause substantial competitive harm.
  • Exemption 6:  The court "determines that DCMA has adequately justified the application of Exemption 6 to withhold the names and contact information of DOD and Sikorsky employees who were involved in termination settlement negotiations."  The court finds that "[t]he names and contact information sought by [plaintiff] qualify as 'similar files.'"  Additionally, the court finds that "Sikorsky and DOD employees' interest in not having their names disclosed in connection with the Comanche Project is clearly more than de minimis."  Finally, the court determines that "[Plaintiff's] own need for the information in connection with the State Court Action is immaterial to the public's interest in government accountability under FOIA."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court states that "having reviewed the unredacted documents in camera, the court [] finds that all reasonably segregable information has been provided to [plaintiff] with the exception of [certain] items [discussed in the court's opinion]."
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 4
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations
Updated August 22, 2014