Friday, February 14, 2014
Re: Motion for attorneys' fees resulting from request for records concerning civil judgment in favor of SEC against plaintiff's client Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees
- Attorney Fees, Eligibility: The court "finds that the plaintiff has demonstrated that [plaintiff's client] substantially prevailed in this case and is therefore eligible for an award of attorneys' fees." The court "finds that the lawsuit did, in fact, prompt a speedier release of responsive records before the resolution of the appeal, as amply confirmed by the timing of the releases shortly after the initiation of this lawsuit."
- Attorney Fees, Entitlement: The Court holds that plaintiff "is not entitled to attorneys' fees because the plaintiff had a commercial and personal interest for bringing suit even without reimbursement of fees, and the defendant's initial withholding was reasonable." First, concerning the first factor, the court finds that "the public benefit factor neither favors nor disfavors an award of attorneys' fees to [plaintiff]." The court explains that "[a]lthough scrutiny of this agency activity through FOIA requests by individual targets may, therefore, fall short of the general public benefit factor, some value attaches to the disclosure of the SEC's discrete decisions by shedding light on this enforcement activity and, in the aggregate, such information may provide significant public benefit." Second, concerning the second and third factors, the court finds that "plaintiff's stated motives are primarily commercial and personal interests, thus this factor weighs against an award of attorneys' fees." The court explains that "plaintiff concedes that his aim was to use the FOIA request to develop his arguments in support of his efforts to vacate the civil judgment against [plaintiff's client]." Last, the court finds that "the fourth and final factor weighs strongly, if not dispositively, against awarding the plaintiff attorneys' fees." The court explains that "defendant has established a colorable basis in law for denying the plaintiff's FOIA request" and "[c]ontrary to the plaintiff's assertion, the fact that the SEC exercised its discretion to release requested records does not demonstrate [plaintiff's client's] entitlement to attorneys' fees."
Updated August 6, 2014