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Cleveland v. U.S., No. 13-1627, 2015 WL 5313411 (D.D.C. Sept. 11, 2015) (Walton, J.)


Cleveland v. U.S., No. 13-1627, 2015 WL 5313411 (D.D.C. Sept. 11, 2015) (Walton, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning 2012 report titled "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011–Cameroon"

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

  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  "[T]he Court finds that the State Department's declaration provides sufficient factual detail of the methods utilized in conducting searches for responsive documents to conclude that the State Department 'has conducted ... search[es] reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.'"  The court finds that "[defendant's] Declaration demonstrates the State Department's thorough and methodological approach in responding to each component of the plaintiff's FOIA request."  "As the Court has explained, in processing each element of the plaintiff's request, the State Department considered 'which offices, overseas posts, or other records systems ... [would] reasonably be expected to contain the records requested,' . . . and subsequently searched those entities using specific search terms and discrete time periods."  "Moreover, based on the specificity of the plaintiff's request, the State Department explicitly searched the Central Foreign Policy Records despite its prior conclusion that it was unlikely that this repository contained responsive records."
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege:  "[T]he Court concludes that the defendants properly asserted Exemption 5 to withhold the documents at issue under the deliberative process privilege."  The court notes that "[t]he plaintiff does not contest the State Department's characterization of the withheld documents as part of the deliberative process privilege that are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Exemption 5."  The court relates that defendant withheld "'draft text, ... editing comments[,] and suggested red–line edits' . . . [which are] deliberative and predecisional," as well as portions of "'intra–agency e–mail exchanges among Department officials discussing revisions to the [Report].'"  The court also notes that defendant "'conducted a line–by–line review of the documents'" in order to fulfill its segregability requirement.
  • Exemption 6:  The court finds that "the defendant's invocation of FOIA Exemption 6 was proper."  The court notes that "[plaintiff] does not challenge the defendant's invocation of Exemption 6" or "raise[] [any] public interest that would be served by the disclosure of the employee's phone number."  The court relates that "[t]he State Department redacted the 'mobile phone number of [one] U.S. Government employee.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "Based on the State Department's unchallenged representation that it has 'conducted a line–by–line review' of each document responsive to the plaintiff's FOIA request . . . to ensure that all 'reasonably segregable, non–exempt material' was released to the plaintiff, . . . the Court concludes that the Department has satisfied its segregability obligation under the FOIA."



Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records
Updated January 12, 2022