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Madel v. DOJ, 784 F.3d 448 (8th Cir. 2015) (Benton, J.)


Madel v. DOJ, 784 F.3d 448 (8th Cir. 2015) (Benton, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning certain oxycodone transactions

Disposition: Reversing and remanding district court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 4:  The court finds that "DEA shows substantial competitive harm is likely."  "DEA does not make 'barren assertions' that the documents are exempt, but links each document to identifiable competitive harms."  "Summarizing their concerns, the Declaration states that the data in the withheld spreadsheets could be used to determine the companies' market shares, inventory levels, and sales trends in particular areas."  The court relates that "[plaintiff] does not dispute that the information is 'commercial or financial' and 'obtained from a person.'"  "He argues it is not 'confidential.'"  "DEA counters that release 'is likely to cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom the information was obtained.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that "[t]he district court erred by failing to make an express finding on segregability."  The court disagrees with "DEA['s] argu[ment] that, because segregability was briefed and argued below, there is a finding on segregability in the court's conclusion: '[T]he statements in that Declaration establish grounds for nondisclosure that are reasonable and consistent with the law.'"  The court notes that "DEA urges this court to determine segregability in the first instance, relying on Juarez v. DOJ, 518 F.3d 54, 60–61 (D.C.Cir.2008), which finds a remand for an express finding unnecessary when an appellate court reviews the record and determines no information is segregable."  "Even assuming this court adopted the out-of-circuit approach, DEA, relying solely on the Declaration, does not show 'with reasonable specificity why documents withheld pursuant to a valid exemption cannot be further segregated.'"  Therefore, the court holds that "[t]he case is remanded to the district court for an express finding on segregability."
  • Litigation Considerations, Relief & Attorney Fees:  "Given this court's decision on segregability, the denials of declaratory and injunctive relief and attorney fees are also reversed and remanded."

Court Decision Topic(s)
Court of Appeals opinions
Attorney Fees
Exemption 4
Litigation Considerations, Relief
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated December 17, 2021