Freedom Watch v. BLM, No. 16-992, 2016 WL 6304653 (D.D.C. Oct. 27, 2016) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning confrontation in Clark County, Nevada in April 2014 between BLM employees and supporters of grazing cattle on public lands
Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for discovery
- Procedural Requirements, Proper FOIA Requests & Litigation Considerations, Discovery: The court holds "that Plaintiff's request for discovery is denied." The court relates that "[d]efendants assert that they had not received the . . . FOIA Request until it was filed with the Complaint in this action." The court finds that, "[a]s a matter of law . . . the sending of a FOIA request is not the salient action that initiates a request and imposes obligations on the agencies from which documents are being requested." "Rather, the receipt of a request by the agency is the legally significant event that triggers the commencement of the FOIA request and that enables a requester, such as Plaintiff, who is dissatisfied with the agency response to seek recourse from federal courts." The court finds that "[defendants'] Declarations are sufficiently detailed in their explanation of the intake procedures used by Defendants for FOIA requests and of the efforts made here to locate Plaintiff's May FOIA Request," but, [e]ven if . . . the Court concluded that these declarations were insufficient, discovery would not be the remedy of first resort." The court explains that "after receiving the . . . FOIA Request with the Complaint in this case, Defendant FBI responded by processing the FOIA Request." The court finds that "[t]he responsiveness of Defendant FBI in processing the FOIA Request, even when received in this unusual form as an attachment to the Complaint in this action, offers further support of the FBI's good faith in this matter." The court concludes that, "[t]o [allow discovery] here would be all the more inappropriate where Plaintiff has not yet exhausted his administrative remedies under FOIA and has not thereby developed a record as to the adequacy of Defendants' search for responsive documents." "Furthermore, because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to rebut the presumption of good faith afforded to agency declarations, Plaintiff's Motion would not support even a narrower request for limited discovery into Defendants' FOIA intake procedures."