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Huddleston v. FBI, No. 20-447, 2021 WL 327510 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 1, 2021) (Mazzant, J.)


Huddleston v. FBI, No. 20-447, 2021 WL 327510 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 1, 2021) (Mazzant, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning former Democratic Party staffer

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion to stay scheduling order deadlines

  • Litigation Considerations, "Open America" Stays of Proceedings:  "[G]iven the Motion and relevant pleadings, the Court does not find the exceptional-circumstances FOIA exception applicable and utilizes its inherent authority to extend the scheduling order deadlines for an appropriate length of time."  The court relates that "[e]ven though Defendants do not invoke § 552(a)(6)(C)(i)’s exceptional-circumstances exception in the Motion or subsequent pleadings, it appears to be the argument Defendants effectively offer here."  "Their rationale breaks down into two parts: there are a lot of documents to review . . . and FOIA-response resources have lessened due to the COVID-19 pandemic . . . ."  The court finds that "[t]he latter of these arguments is entirely understandable."  "The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the normal functioning of government, and processing FOIA requests is no exception."  "If the COVID-19 crisis is not an 'exceptional circumstance' under § 552(a)(6)(C)(i), the Court is unsure when the exception would ever apply."  "Notwithstanding, the problem with the Motion Defendants advance is the due-diligence element required by FOIA."  "The shapeless nature of the relief Defendants seek is anything but transparent."  The court relates that "[t]he Motion initially requests 'an additional three months to complete the tasks' described therein, at which time Defendants plan to provide the Court with 'an updated search status' and proposed 'production schedule.'"  "The Court recognizes the 'unprecedented workload' Defendants face on this front given current global circumstances . . . ."  "But the proposed processing rate is impermissible."  "To be sure, were Defendants to (1) explain the exceptional circumstances associated with the handling of [plaintiff's] FOIA requests more precisely, and (2) present a less amorphous processing and production schedule, the Court would be open to considering a reasonable delay of the proceedings."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, “Open America” Stays of Proceedings
Updated February 26, 2021