Gahagan v. USCIS, No. 15-6218, 2016 WL 4418994 (E.D. La. Aug. 19, 2016) (Zainey, J.)

Date: 
Friday, August 19, 2016

Gahagan v. USCIS, No. 15-6218, 2016 WL 4418994 (E.D. La. Aug. 19, 2016) (Zainey, J.)

Re: Requests for records concerning plaintiff's client

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, Consultations and Referrals: "The Court rejects [plaintiff's] contention that the practice of referral constitutes a per se violation of the FOIA when the referred materials are not processed within the FOIA's twenty-day mandate." The court finds that, "[a]lthough [plaintiff] contends that there is currently a two-and-one-half year backlog for production of USCIS records referred to ICE, as of the time that the Government filed its opposition in this case all referrals had been processed." Therefore, "[t]he Court agrees that there was no significant delay involved in obtaining the records."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration: The court holds that "USCIS, through ICE, has not met it burden with respect to [one] withholding" and "shall produce a Vaughn index that specifically addresses [one] withheld page." "Further, neither the Vaughn index nor the opposition addresses . . . three pages that USCIS withheld in their entirety to refer to ICE." "The Court is persuaded that the Vaughn index adequately describes the withheld documents and the exemptions that USCIS relies upon." "The Court is not persuaded, however, that USCIS's seqregability analysis suffices." "USCIS's segregability analysis consists of a few statements . . . and those statements apply globally to all of the documents that USCIS produced with redactions." Similarly, the court orders that "CBP shall produce a supplemental Vaughn index that specifically addresses [certain] pages" because "assumptions [as to what they are] are not appropriate."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: The court holds that "[CBP's] declaration establishes that CBP performed a legally adequate search for information responsive to [plaintiff's] request." "[CBP] explains the search methods used, including the specific databases that were searched, and the search terms that were used." "CBP searched the specific databases that were likely to contain information responsive to [plaintiff's] request and [CBP] explains why the scope of the search was limited to those files." Similarly, "[t]he Court is persuaded that USCIS has met its burden of establishing that it conducted a legally adequate search." The court relates that "[USCIS] explains in reasonable and sufficient detail how NRC processed [plaintiff's] FOIA request."
     
  • Procedural Requirements: The court holds that "[USCIS] surely had laudable motives in culling out what it believed to be duplicative documents but if [plaintiff] wants them the Court can discern no justification for withholding them." "Therefore, USCIS is ordered to produce the duplicates to [plaintiff], subject to authorized redactions."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
Declarations
District Court
Litigation Considerations
Procedural
Referral of Record
Vaughn Index
Updated January 18, 2017