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Eakin v. DOD, No. 16-972, 2022 WL 2657250 (W.D. Tex. July 8, 2022) (Lamberth, J.)


Eakin v. DOD, No. 16-972, 2022 WL 2657250 (W.D. Tex. July 8, 2022) (Lamberth, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning information about missing and unidentified remains of World War II-era servicemembers

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for Open America stay of proceedings

  • Litigation Considerations, "Open America" Stays of Proceedings:  The court holds that "DOD has satisfied all four conditions required for an Open America stay."  First, the court finds that "[b]ased on the volume of [plaintiff's] request – approximately 160,000 [Individual Deceased Personnel Files ("IDPFs")] – and the number and size of the FOIA requests pending before [defendant], the Court finds that DOD has [demonstrated that it "is burdened with an unanticipated number of FOIA requests"]."  "Second, the Court finds that DOD cannot process [plaintiff's] request within FOIA's time limits."  "The sheer number of IDPFs left for DOD to review – combined with the current backlog and new requests – illustrate that the agency's resources are inadequate to process [plaintiff's] request within the time limits outlined in the statute."  "Third, the Court finds that DOD is now employing due diligence in processing [plaintiff's] FOIA request."  "Several developments support this finding."  "[Army Human Resources Command ("AHRC")] commanding general is now overseeing [plaintiff's] FOIA request and has put corrective measures in place to govern review of the [remaining] IDPFs."  "DOD has also devoted more resources to the M–Z file review than it did for the [first set of] file reviews:  authorizing overtime, assigning data-management personnel to the project, and adding a dedicated Judge Advocate General to assist AHRC with its review."  "DOD's interactions with the Court since producing the [first set of] IDPFs also assure the Court of its current due diligence."  "After producing the [first set of] IDPFs to [plaintiff], DOD conducted supplementary reviews of more than 66,000 of those files with a 100% file-accuracy rate."  "When discrepancies (or corrupted files) arose, DOD communicated those issues to the Court and resolved them promptly."  "Finally, the Court finds that DOD is making progress toward reducing its backlog of FOIA requests."  "In making this finding, the Court takes judicial notice of DOD's annual FOIA reports."  "AHRC successfully processed 24,409 FOIA requests."  "AHRC's efforts accounted for roughly 45% of requests processed by DOD during 2021."  "And even though AHRC increased the number of requests processed by 5.39% between FY20 and FY21, overall FOIA requests increased by 6.26%."  "In light of AHRC's efforts and the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court finds this element satisfied."  "The Court will therefore grant the DOD's motion."  "[C]onsidering (1) that that this case has been pending since 2016 (rather than 2021); and (2) that DOD's self-provided details show that it could process this request months before the proposed October 8, 2023 deadline, the Court will limit the length of the Open America stay to July 8, 2023—one year from the date of this opinion."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, “Open America” Stays of Proceedings
Updated August 11, 2022