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Conway v. USAID, No. 14-1792, 2015 WL 4966690 (D.D.C. Aug. 17, 2015) (Chutkan, J.)


Conway v. USAID, No. 14-1792, 2015 WL 4966690 (D.D.C. Aug. 17, 2015) (Chutkan, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff's aunt's government service and death

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  Regarding the Army's search, the court finds that, "[g]iven the questions that remain, summary judgment is improper at this time."  The court explains that "[t]he Army did not conduct a search of any database containing records dating from [the year of plaintiff's aunt's death]."  Additionally, "[t]he Army has not submitted declarations addressing the existence of other records systems and whether or not there are other extant records systems which could contain responsive records."  "In addition, the Army has not established beyond material doubt that the search terms it used were appropriate."  Finally, the court notes that "[plaintiff] appears to argue that, notwithstanding the fact that there was no indication that records pertaining to [plaintiff's aunt] had been transmitted to the NRC, the Army should have conducted an independent search of the National Records Center."  The court finds that "[a]lthough [plaintiff] is correct that leads must be followed, . . . it does not appear based on the Army's searches to date that there is actually a 'lead' here for the Army to follow."

Similarly, the court holds that "summary judgment is inappropriate" for USAID. The court finds that "[f]irst, USAID has provided no meaningful details about its electronic records searches."  "Similarly, USAID sought information from a single . . . committee member . . . , but has provided no explanation as to why it was reasonable to solicit documents from only that committee member and not the entire committee."  "Finally, in its reply, USAID makes problematic contentions with regard to documents which may be in National Archives storage."  On this point, the court explains that "[t]he determinative question . . . is whether any responsive records could reasonably be expected to be located among USAID documents stored with the National Archives and, if so, whether those documents have been legally transferred to the National Archives' permanent custody or whether the records remain in the legal custody of USAID."  "USAID's vague references to searches of 'all Federal Records Centers where USAID stores and retains legal custody of records' answer neither question."

Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Updated January 12, 2022