Hooker v. HHS, No 11-1276(ABJ), 2013 WL 3421950 (D.D.C. July 9, 2013) (Jackson, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Re: Records pertaining to possible connection between mercury-based compound used in vaccines and autism Disposition: Granting defendants' motion for summary judgment; in a prior ruling, the court limited the remaining issues to adequacy of the search for records responsive to one of four FOIA requests plaintiff submitted and segregability of information previously withheld in full under Exemption 6
  • Adequacy of the Search:  The court finds, "Defendants have met their burden of showing that they conducted a search that was reasonably calculated to uncover all documents responsive to the FOIA request."  The court notes, "defendants identified the offices to which the request was forwarded, explained why the request had been forwarded to those offices, listed the individuals in each office whose documents were searched, and described the search methodology including the records that were searched, the search terms, and who conducted the search."  Plaintiff challenged the search "by pointing to three sets of documents that he alleges were responsive to his request but that defendants failed to produce to him."  Defendants had provided plaintiff with two of the sets of documents.  The third set of documents was comprised of records responsive to a different, unrelated FOIA request.  The court explains, "the discrepancy between the documents produced [in the prior FOIA request] and those produced to plaintiff does not demonstrate the inadequacy of defendants' search because the scope of the two requests was different."  Finally, the court rejects plaintiff's argument that the documents from the third set of records were responsive because "they 'deal directly with the autism incidence in Denmark.'"  "But defendants were not obligated to expand the scope of plaintiff's request to include all correspondence regarding the incidence of autism in Denmark, and their failure to do so does not undermine the adequacy of their search."
  • Exemption 6/Segregability:  "Since defendants have complied with the Court's order, and plaintiff is not challenging defendants' current withholdings or redactions under Exemption 6, the Court will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment on the issue of segregability under Exemption 6."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 6
Segregability
Updated August 6, 2014