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Ctr. for Pub. Integrity v. Dep't of Commerce, No. 17-2426, 2019 WL 3752963 (D.D.C. Aug. 8, 2019) (Sullivan, J.)


Ctr. for Pub. Integrity v. Dep't of Commerce, No. 17-2426, 2019 WL 3752963 (D.D.C. Aug. 8, 2019) (Sullivan, J.)

Re:  Request for certain records concerning nomination of Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., as Secretary of Commerce and Todd M. Ricketts as Deputy Secretary of Commerce

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment; granting in part, denying in part, holding in abeyance in part plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment

Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  The court holds that "[i]t is undisputed that the declarations aver that DOC and OGE took a line-by-line and page-by-page approach in reviewing the responsive records."  However, "[h]aving completed a review of the Vaughn indices and the declarations submitted in support of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Court finds that the presumption that OGE and DOC complied with their segregability obligations is overcome by their failure to provide sufficient justifications for each document withheld in full."  "In an across-the-board declaration as to the segregability issue, OGE's declarant attests that the agency 'determined that no additional information can be released without jeopardizing information that falls within the scope of one or more FOIA exemptions described above.'"  "This conclusory statement is insufficient to satisfy OGE's burden with respect to FOIA's segregability requirements."  "Similarly, [DOC's] descriptions in the Vaughn index do not provide sufficient information about documents withheld in full . . . ."  "The Vaughn index fails to identify the authors of some documents and leaves out the number of pages for each document."  "Because DOC's Vaughn indices do not give [plaintiff] an opportunity to challenge the information withheld in the documents, the Court finds that DOC has failed to demonstrate that the information is not reasonably segregable."  Finally, "[t]he Court therefore concludes that Defendants must disclose the header information in the disputed documents – dates, names of senders and recipients, titles, and subject-matter descriptions – that is segregable and non-exempt."  "Given the narrow set of disputed documents in this case, the Court agrees with [plaintiff] that the header information is easily segregable from the exempt portions of the disputed documents."  "Defendants' argument – that releasing the header information would somehow result in fragments with no meaning . . . – is inconsistent with D.C. Circuit precedent."

Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Updated January 7, 2022