Hall & Assocs. v. EPA, No. 16-5315, 2018 WL 1896493 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 9, 2018) (per curiam)
Re: Request for records concerning alleged science misconduct in tightening nitrogen requirements for Great Bay Estuary in New Hampshire
Disposition: Affirming district court's grant of government's motion for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit finds that "the district court properly held that EPA's response to the first set of requests was adequate based on a declaration by an EPA employee detailing the efforts undertaken to collect and identify responsive documents." The district court previously found that defendant's "declaration 'describe[s] in ... detail what records were searched, by whom, and through what process'" and that "EPA asked every individual involved with the [portion of the request at issue] to provide responsive documents, and 'it is reasonable for an agency to limit its search to asking staff members familiar with all aspects of a government program to find the relevant documents.'"
- Procedural Requirements, Proper FOIA Requests: The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit finds that "the district court properly held that the requests as initially drafted did not reasonably describe the documents sought by [the requester] and would have required EPA to undertake research, analysis, and formulation of opinions – actions not required by FOIA." The district court previous related that the "requests quoted a statement from [a] May 4 Letter accusing [a region of EPA] of science misconduct, and asked EPA to provide all documents proving that statement wrong."
- Attorney Fees: The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit holds that, "[a]ssuming [the requester] is correct as to eligibility, under our precedents, [the requester] cannot be entitled to fees because '[i]f the Government’s position [in refusing a FOIA request] is correct as a matter of law, that will be dispositive.'"