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Hum Rts. Def. Ctr. v. DOJ, No. 20-00674, 2024 WL 2882208 (W.D. Wash. June 7, 2024) (Chun, J.)


Hum Rts. Def. Ctr. v. DOJ, No. 20-00674, 2024 WL 2882208 (W.D. Wash. June 7, 2024) (Chun, J.)

Re:  Request for records of claims against DEA that DEA resolved through payment of settlement or judgment

Disposition:  Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment; granting plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees

  • Exemption 6:  “After in camera review of [two files], the Court determines that the DEA correctly redacted the information at issue under FOIA exemption 6.”  The court determines that two “block redaction[s]” were “not reasonably segregable” because they contain “non-segregable information that – if disclosed – could reasonably identify [individuals].”  Additionally, the court relates that “[it] had directed the DEA ‘to submit a supplemental brief and a supporting declaration, . . . which includes the DEA Academy’s comprehensive enrollment numbers and relevant demographic information so the Court [could] determine whether the Academy’s “limited” enrollment precludes [plaintiff’s] access to the information at issue.’”  “After review of these limited enrollment figures, the Court concludes that the disclosure of the redacted information related to the private claimant’s training and proficiency while enrolled at the DEA Academy could disclose her identity to those familiar with her situation.”  “In its supplemental brief, DEA says that the total enrollment in all DEA Academy classes for 2012 was estimated to be 388 enrollees, and of the 353 trainees who graduated, only 74 of those graduates were women.”
  • Attorney Fees, Eligibility & Entitlement:  “[T]he Court determines that [plaintiff] is the substantially prevailing party and is eligible and entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs.”  “In its previous summary judgment order, . . . the Court reserved ruling on whether [plaintiff] was eligible and entitled to attorney fees under the statute.”  “Because the Court has now resolved all pending merit issues at summary judgment, the Court determines [plaintiff’s] eligibility and entitlement as follows.” 

    “The Court concludes that [plaintiff] is eligible for an award of fees.”  “First, every document released by the DEA, about 1,700 pages of responsive pages, occurred after [plaintiff] filed this case.”  “Next, of those pages released, many redactions were removed after the Court’s first summary judgment order.”  “Finally, the DEA’s decision to voluntarily disclose multiple files – only after this action was filed in federal court – show that [plaintiff] was entitled to the documents at an earlier time.”

    Regarding entitlement, the court notes that “[t]he DEA does not dispute that [plaintiff] seeks these files to make clear the agency’s practice in settling civil claims and lawsuits.”  “Nor does the DEA contest that [plaintiff], a 501(c)(3) organization that advocates for the human rights of detained persons, seeks this information for non-commercial ‘scholarly’ or ‘journalistic’ publication.”  “And the DEA does not dispute that since [plaintiff] filed this case, it has voluntarily disclosed multiple previously withheld files to [plaintiff].”  “Further, in its previous summary judgment order . . . , the Court determined that the DEA wrongly redacted multiple items in its files, such as (1) the names of alleged tortfeasors who are DEA employees; (2) the case numbers, judge and attorney names, and litigant names in publicly filed civil lawsuits; and (3) the names of DEA employees accused of wrongdoing named in settlement agreements in which the agreement contains a provision permitting public disclosure.”  “After consideration of these factors, and for the reasons raised in [plaintiff’s] briefing, . . . [the] Court concludes that [plaintiff] is entitled to an award of fees.”
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Attorney Fees
Exemption 6
Updated July 8, 2024