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Contreras & Metelska, P.A. v. DOJ, No. 20-1261, 2020 WL 6867411 (D. Minn. Nov. 23, 2020) (Nelson, J.)


Contreras & Metelska, P.A. v. DOJ, No. 20-1261, 2020 WL 6867411 (D. Minn. Nov. 23, 2020) (Nelson, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning new DHS computer scheduling system for immigration hearings

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

  • Attorney Fees, Eligibility:  The court holds that "Plaintiff has failed to show that it 'substantially prevailed,' and is therefore ineligible for attorney’s fees under the FOIA."  The court relates that "Plaintiff claims eligibility for attorney's fees under the catalyst theory, arguing that Defendants 'voluntarily or unilaterally changed position as a result of Plaintiff's commencement of litigation.'"  "Plaintiff contends that it took the commencement of this lawsuit for Defendants to provide the requested document, noting that only 16 calendar days elapsed from the filing of the lawsuit until DOJ responded to the FOIA request, as compared to 167 calendar days that elapsed between Defendants' receipt of the FOIA request and the filing of this lawsuit."  "The Court finds the catalyst theory is inapplicable here, as Plaintiff has not shown that Defendants voluntarily or unilaterally changed their position in response to this lawsuit."  "Against Plaintiff's speculation based largely on timing, Defendants have submitted evidence showing the complicated review process that this FOIA request required."  "A number of factors contributed to the delay in processing Plaintiff's FOIA request, including unexpected work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a transition to telework, the sensitive nature of certain information in the requested document, the need for inter-agency review, and a general backlog of FOIA requests."  Additionally, the court finds that "[b]ecause the document in question was an agreement between two agencies, the FOIA response required the input of more than one agency."  "Furthermore, the document contained sensitive information that required careful review."  "Given all of these circumstances, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not shown that this lawsuit was reasonably necessary to obtain the information, and that the litigation substantially caused the production of the requested information."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Attorney Fees
Updated December 18, 2020