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Conservation Force v. Jewell, No. 12-1665, 2016 WL 471252 (D.D.C. Feb. 5, 2016) (Jackson, J.)


Conservation Force v. Jewell, No. 12-1665, 2016 WL 471252 (D.D.C. Feb. 5, 2016) (Jackson, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning import permits for Canadian wood bison trophies since 2000

Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for attorney fees and costs

  • Attorney Fees, Eligibility:  "[The] Court has concluded that [plaintiff] has not made the required eligibility showing in support of its motion for attorneys' fees, despite the fact that Defendants provided [plaintiff] many of the desired documents soon after the suit’s initiation, and Defendants also revamped the descriptions of redacted information in the agency's Vaughn Index during the course of the litigation pursuant to an order of the Court."  First, the court finds that "[plaintiff's] complaint asked this Court to (1) issue an injunction forcing the government to release certain documents and (2) declare that Defendants had violated, and were continuing to violate, the FOIA's statutory time limits."  "The Court’s order . . .  included no such declaration, nor did it direct a document release."  "Instead, the Court merely denied the government's motion for summary judgment in part and without prejudice."  Second, the court finds that "[plaintiff] filed the instant lawsuit . . . in order to obtain certain documents and particular declarations from the Court."  "It never obtained the latter, and while it is true that Defendants released some documents after [plaintiff] filed the complaint as a purely chronological matter, it is also clear beyond cavil that the catalyst method requires more."  "No averments or other facts in the instant record indicate that Defendants only produced these documents because of [plaintiff's] lawsuit or its necessary consequents, nor was there any about-face from an initial agency refusal here."  Last, responding to plaintiff's arguments, the court finds that "the FOIA statute does not make a plaintiff eligible for attorneys' fees if it prevails on any dispute within a case, however small."  "Instead, plaintiffs are eligible only if they 'obtain[ ] relief[,]' . . . and . . . 'Vaughn indices are not properly understood as relief on the merits for a FOIA plaintiff.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
Attorney Fees
District Court opinions
Updated March 4, 2016