Skip to main content

Citizens for Resp. & Ethics in Wash. v. GSA, No. 18-2071, 2021 WL 765659 (D.D.C. Feb. 26, 2021) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.)


Citizens for Resp. & Ethics in Wash. v. GSA, No. 18-2071, 2021 WL 765659 (D.D.C. Feb. 26, 2021) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.)

Re:  Request for all communications from January 20, 2017 to July 30, 2018 between GSA and the White House concerning renovation of Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters

Disposition:  Granting portion of plaintiff's cross-motion for Summary Judgment seeking in camera review with respect to certain categories of material withheld pursuant to Exemptions 5 and 7(E); holding in abeyance the remainder of plaintiff's motion, as well as defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index / Declaration & In Camera Inspection:  The court holds that "[i]n this case, making a responsible de novo determination of many of Defendant's FOIA exemption claims requires in camera review of the withheld information because Defendants have failed to 'provide specific information sufficient to place the documents within the exemption category.'"  "Here, the Court finds that the Vaughn Index entries and Defendant's affidavit are insufficiently specific with respect to the claimed withholdings discussed here."  Regarding Exemption 5, the court finds that "[t]he Vaughn Index and supporting affidavit do not provide the Court with sufficient context to determine whether the privileges claimed by Defendant apply."  Regarding Exemption 7(E), the court finds that "[h]ere, neither Defendant's affidavit nor the Vaughn Index provide sufficient specificity pursuant to Exemption 7(E) regarding what investigative procedures or techniques are involved and how they would be disclosed by production of the document."  "In addition to requiring Defendant to submit the documents discussed above for in camera review, the Court shall also order Defendant to supplement its Vaughn Index with respect to three categories of records withheld pursuant to the deliberative process privilege under FOIA's Exemption 5."  "The Court finds that Defendant's Vaughn Index and affidavit are inadequate with respect to these categories, and is not confident that in camera review alone – absent additional contextual details provided by a supplemental Vaughn Index – will allow the Court to render a decision on the propriety of Defendant's withholdings."  Specifically, the court finds that defendant's explanation concerning a grouping of documents "plainly falls short of the requirement that the agency . . . provide appropriate information for 'each document' at issue."  Additionally, the court finds that defendant did not provide "notice of the 'function' of [certain] document[s] in the deliberative process."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Updated March 16, 2021