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Eddington v. DOD, No. 21-5074, 2022 WL 1815138 (D.C. Cir. June 3, 2022) (Henderson, J.)


Eddington v. DOD, No. 21-5074, 2022 WL 1815138 (D.C. Cir. June 3, 2022) (Henderson, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning "the DOD's acquisition of information regarding individuals and organizations not affiliated with the DOD under DOD Directive 5200.27"

Disposition:  Affirming district court's grant of government's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  "[The requester] alleged that on July 18 and 19, 2019, he emailed FOIA requests to fourteen components of the DOD."  "In the ensuing six to seven months, [the requester] received no response from any of the components."  "We have not previously addressed if a plaintiff responding to an agency's summary judgment motion has presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact over agency receipt of a FOIA request."  "But the district court has addressed the issue a number of times."  "Consistent with the district court's approach, it is undisputed that 'receipt' of a FOIA request triggers an agency's obligation to respond."  "[I]f an agency moves for summary judgment and provides sufficient evidence that it did not receive a request, the requester—as the non-movant seeking 'to support . . . [an] essential element[ ] of [his] claim,' . . . [] must 'come forward with proof to create a genuine dispute of fact that he sent the FOIA request to the agency and the agency received it[.]'"  "We afford a presumption of good faith only if we conclude that an agency's declaration is 'relatively detailed and non-conclusory, and . . . submitted in good faith.'"  "The [government's] Declaration plainly meets that standard."  "In detailing his search for [the requester's] requests, [the government] began by 'contact[ing] the FOIA office in each of the fourteen listed components.'"  "After searches of 'email files and folders, including spam folders, and the logs they keep of incoming FOIA requests,' the components invariably informed him they 'could not locate any evidence of having received the requests.'"  "Not finding any evidence that even one of the components received a request from [the requester], [the government] concluded 'that none of the 14 [DOD] component agencies . . . received any of the 14 FOIA requests' allegedly sent by [the requester]."  "[The requester also] argues that the mailbox rule should apply under FOIA and that the 'sent' emails should be presumed 'received.'"  "[The requester] cites no instance in which courts have referred to, much less used, the mailbox rule to presume receipt of any FOIA request."  "[E]ven assuming arguendo the presumption applies to emailed FOIA requests, [the requester] has not presented sufficient evidence to trigger the presumption."  "In sum, [the requester], who filed suit over six months after saving the requests on his computer, has presented insufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute regarding the DOD's 'receipt' of his FOIA requests."
  • Litigation Considerations, Discovery:  "We see no abuse of discretion in the denial of discovery."  "The district court noted that '[d]iscovery in FOIA cases is "rare"' and 'permissible only upon a showing that "the agency acted in bad faith."'"  "Again, the DOD's 'reasonably detailed, nonconclusory [declaration] describing its efforts' established the adequacy of its search for [the requester's] requests[] . . . and assertions about automatically deleted spam emails do not amount to a showing of bad faith." 
Court Decision Topic(s)
Court of Appeals opinions
Litigation Considerations, Discovery
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Updated June 22, 2022