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Gahagan v. USCBP, No. 14-2619, 2015 WL 3772888 (E.D. La. June 17, 2015) (Brown, J.)


Gahagan v. USCBP, No. 14-2619, 2015 WL 3772888 (E.D. La. June 17, 2015) (Brown, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning client

Disposition: Rejecting Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation; granting in part, denying in part, finding moot in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Relief:  The court holds that "[plaintiff's] motion clearly seeks relief that falls within the scope of FOIA's statutory scheme."  The court explains that "the Magistrate Judge erred in construing [plaintiff's] motions as seeking preliminary injunctive relief outside of the statutorily-defined injunctive relief FOIA provides."  "Although [plaintiff] requests 'injunctive and other appropriate relief,' he specifically states that he is requesting such relief under FOIA, and urges that the Court 'enjoin' Defendants from withholding responsive records, a remedy specifically provided by FOIA."  The court also holds that it "is unable to discern to what aspects the Magistrate Judge applied the preliminary injunction standard as opposed to the standard under FOIA, [and, therefore,] the Court will apply a de novo review to every aspect of the Report and Recommendation."
  • Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal:  In response to plaintiff's "argu[ment] that ICE's 'routing' of his FOIA request to USCIS resulted in an 'improper with[h]olding,' . . . the Court notes that it is undisputed that ICE has now produced documents to [plaintiff] . . . [and, therefore,] [plaintiff's] argument on this point [is] moot."
  • Procedural Requirements, Consultations and Referrals:  The court "finds here that ICE's 'routing' of [plaintiff]'s FOIA request is not a per se violation of FOIA."
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court finds that CBP and ICE did not conduct adequate searches in response to plaintiff's request, but that the State Department did conduct an adequate search in response to plaintiff's request.  First, the court finds that "[d]efendants' declarations are not per se deficient for failing to name the individuals who conducted [plaintiff's] search."  Second, regarding CBP, the court finds that while "CBP's supporting declaration identifies the locations CBP searched and how the search was conducted . . . CBP's supporting declaration is devoid of any non-conclusory explanation of why CBP chose to employ the foregoing search methodology in response to [plaintiff's request]."  Regarding ICE, the court finds that while "ICE's declaration . . . describes the search methodology it employed . . . [and] why it employed the search methodology it did," the declaration did not explain why the search "'[could] be reasonably expected to produce the information requested'" and "did not indicate that ICE searched all likely locations."  Regarding the State Department, the court finds that "State's declaration not only sets forth the search methodology State employs and the reason State employs this search methodology, but also explains . . . why State executed the search at issue here in the manner that it did: because it could reasonably be expected to yield the records [plaintiff] requested."
  • Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection:  The court "order[s] ICE to produce . . .  documents [that ICE stated were non-responsive] for in camera review so that the Court may determine whether these documents were lawfully withheld."  The court explains that "ICE has not explained why it found the above-described documents when executing [plaintiff's] search, or why it ultimately redacted them and produced them to [plaintiff]."  Additionally, "[b]ecause ICE has not explained why it was necessary to redact [one] entire document, the Court will order in camera review of [this] document in order to determine whether the body of the document was properly redacted in full and produced to [plaintiff]."  Similarly, the court "order[s] CBP to submit [one] disputed document for in camera review."
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations:  The court holds that the State Department submitted a sufficient declaration because "the declaration indicates (1) what State found; (2) what State withheld; (3) why State withheld the information; and (4) why State was unable to release any reasonably segregable information."  "Given that the declaration addresses each of these points, and given that State's asserted basis for withholding records appears to be consistent with the statute, the Court finds, when viewing the declaration in the light most favorable to State, the non-moving party, that a rational trier of fact could find for State as to the sufficiency of its basis for withholding responsive records from [plaintiff]."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection
Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal
Litigation Considerations, Relief
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Procedural Requirements, Consultations and Referrals
Updated January 12, 2022