Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. DHS, No. 11-2261, 2013 WL 6047561 (D.D.C. November 15, 2013) (Bates, J.)

Friday, November 15, 2013
Re: Request for records concerning social media monitoring initiatives Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees
  • Attorney Fees and Costs:  The court finds that "[plaintiff's] motion for attorney's fees will be granted in part and denied in part; [defendant] will be ordered to pay $29,841.67 in attorney's fees, and $350.00 in costs."  The court notes that, "[a]s [defendant] essentially concedes, [plaintiff] is both eligible for and entitled to an award of attorney's fees and costs," however, "[t]he parties vigorously dispute the amount of fees."  The court finds that, "[plaintiff] is eligible for attorney's fees, because it has 'substantially prevailed' within the meaning of FOIA."  In other words, "[plaintiff] obtained nearly all of the relief it was seeking," as DHS was ordered "to produce all reasonably segregable portions of six of the seven documents that remained in dispute."  In addition, plaintiff’s "advocacy also caused 'a voluntary or unilateral change in position by the agency'" inasmuch as "hundreds of responsive documents" were released "within three weeks" of receipt of the complaint and "DHS produced a revised Vaughn index meeting [plaintiff’s] proposed specifications.”  The court then finds that plaintiff is entitled to attorney's fees because "the public benefit derived from this [litigation] was exceptional."  Plaintiff, "obtained and disclosed documents relating to a matter subject to an ongoing national debate: the tension between individual privacy interests and the national-security needs of our government in the digital age."  The court then determines that,"'[t]he second and third factors,'" "favor non-profit organizations like [plaintiff], which 'aim to ferret out and make public worthwhile, previously unknown government information.'"  The court also finds that, "the fourth factor, 'the reasonableness of the agency's conduct,' does not strongly weigh in favor of either party."  The court also finds that plaintiff is entitled to fees on fees because "'[i]t 'is settled in this circuit' that 'hours reasonably devoted to a request for fees are compensable.''"  However, although the court finds that plaintiff is entitled to fees, it "ultimately reduce[s] [the] amount slightly, for a variety of reasons."  Regarding issues on which plaintiff did not substantially prevail, the court then determines that, "[h]aving 'considered the relationship between the amount of the fee [requested] and the results obtained . . .,' the Court finds that [plaintiff's] limited defeats in this case are insufficient to justify a significant reduction in [plaintiff's] fee award."
Attorney Fees
District Court
Updated August 6, 2014