Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. DOJ, No. 11-1106, 2015 WL 1314237 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2015) (Leon, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning investigation of late Congressman and associates
Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for attorney fees
- Attorney Fees, Eligibility: "[T]he Court [denies] plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs." The court relates that, "[i]n the absence of Court-ordered disclosure, plaintiff here seeks to recover under the catalyst theory of eligibility and invites the Court to infer causation from the timing of disclosure." The court declines to do so and finds that "[a]lthough the time between the plaintiff's initiation of this lawsuit and the agency's release of responsive records is indeed a salient factor in the Court's analysis, it is by no means dispositive evidence of causation." The court explains that "disclosure was not caused by plaintiff's litigation." "It resulted instead from the closure of certain investigations during the pendency of the lawsuit." "When portions of the investigations pertaining to [the] Congressman . . . closed subsequent to the filing of plaintiff s action, the FBI revised its stance, and determined that Exemption 7(A) no longer shielded all investigative records encompassed by plaintiff's request." "As such, plaintiff did not 'substantially prevail' in its request of records from the FBI." Additionally, the court finds that "plaintiff cites no authority for the proposition that the FBI's 'clarification' of certain claimed exemptions renders it a 'substantially prevailing' party." "Plaintiff's argument, moreover, that it 'substantially prevailed' by causing the EOUSA and the DOJ Criminal Division to process, and issue final responses to, its FOIA requests fails for the same reason." The court finds that "FOIA does not reward Pyrrhic victories and neither, for the reasons discussed above, will this Court." The court further states that "[t]he inquiry ends, as it must, here." "Because plaintiff has not substantially prevailed, there is no need to consider whether the Court should exercise its discretion to award reasonable attorney's fees and expenses."