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The Cornucopia Inst. v. Agric. Marketing Serv., No. 16-0654, 2017 WL 3535209 (D.D.C. Aug. 16, 2017) (Collyer, J.)


The Cornucopia Inst. v. Agric. Marketing Serv., No. 16-0654, 2017 WL 3535209 (D.D.C. Aug. 16, 2017) (Collyer, J.)

Re:  Requests for records from Agricultural Marketing Service concerning investigations conducted by National Organic Program of Daniel Lehebauer, Harry Lehenbauer and Diamond D Organics during Administration of former President Barack Obama

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

  • Litigation considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "[defendant's] Declarations explain in sufficient detail the search methods, including search terms, used to search where responsive records would most likely be found, and why those locations were the primary locations for relevant records."  "[Plaintiff's] argument that the description of the second search is conclusory and vague because [defendant] failed to explain 'how they applied those two search terms,' . . . cannot prevail because [plaintiff] suggests no greater specificity needed to understand and none is required."  "Whether further records might exist is not the test to measure the adequacy of a search."  Additionally, the court finds that "[t]he fact that the second search identified further records does not invalidate either search."  "'The issue is not whether any further documents might conceivably exist but whether the government's search for responsive documents was adequate.'"  "[Defendant's] dual declarations suffice to establish that he and his investigating specialist logically identified, and searched, the most likely places to contain responsive records."
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege & Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection:  The court holds that "[n]o in camera review of the three documents redacted under Exemption 5 is necessary, because the Service has properly demonstrated that these records, which include the advisory opinions and recommendations for the course of action on the Lehenbauer investigation, clearly fall under the deliberative process privilege."  "As the Service explained in its Vaughn Index, these three records discussed the 'next steps and proposed courses of action in the investigation.'"
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court holds that "[t]he balancing test therefore weighs in favor of the individual privacy interests, and ultimately, the Service's withholding of [the] personally-identifying information [of third parties] under 7(C)."  The court relates "this Circuit has 'consistently supported nondisclosure of names or other information identifying individuals appearing in law enforcement records, including . . . witnesses and informants[]'" and that plaintiff "fails to specify anything more than the public's general interest."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements & Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection:  The court finds that "the Service accounted for each redaction in the records that were released in its Vaughn Index, specifying which exemption applied to each redaction in a line-by-line review."  Additionally, the court finds that, "[b]ecause this case is not one where the agency's declarations are 'insufficiently detailed to permit meaningful review of exemption claims,' in camera review is unnecessary."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated December 13, 2021