Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep't of State, No. 15-688, 2018 WL 1542133 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2018) (Contreras, J.)

Date: 
Thursday, March 29, 2018

Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep't of State, No. 15-688, 2018 WL 1542133 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2018) (Contreras, J.)

Re: Request for records that address potential conflicts of interest between State and The William J. Clinton Foundation

Disposition: Granting defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's renewed cross-motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 5, "Inter-Agency or Intra-Agency" Threshold Requirement:  The court holds that "State has met its burden of showing that all six disputed records qualify as 'inter-agency or intra-agency[.]'"  The court relates that "[a]ll six disputed documents that State has withheld under the deliberative process privilege . . . contain materials originally generated in preparation for the respective Senate confirmation hearings of Secretary of State nominee (and then-Senator) Hillary Clinton and [a] Legal Adviser–Designate[.]"  "[The] Court finds that the fact that an individual has been nominated to a high-level agency position suffices to trigger a consulting relationship under the consultant corollary."  "That relationship must extend not only to the nominee but also to those acting on behalf of a nominee."  The court also finds that "[a] nominee for a high-level agency position is not an interested party seeking a government benefit at the expense of others, but rather the president's selection for a position who will become an agency decisionmaker so long as he or she is confirmed by the Senate."  "Thus, Klamath does not preclude this result."
     
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege:  "[The] Court concludes that the deliberative process privilege shields the documents from disclosure and that State is entitled to summary judgment."  The court analyzes each document and finds that "all six documents are deliberative and predecisional."
     
  • Exemption 6:  The court holds that, "[e]ven if [plaintiff] had not abandoned its request, the Court would find that State has met its burden [to withhold certain private email addresses]."  "Having reviewed the disputed documents in camera, it is apparent to the Court that State has already released to [plaintiff] the email prefixes for every email address appearing in the disputed documents except for . . . one[.]"  "Thus, the Court has no trouble concluding that the domain extensions for these addresses are not subject to release because, as the Court observed in its prior Opinion, 'a keen observer could piece together the redacted documents to ascertain the full email addresses.'"
Topic: 
District Court
Exemption 5
Exemption 6
Updated June 29, 2018