McKinley v. Fed. Hous. Fin. Agency, No. 12-5267, 2014 WL 92285 (D.C. Cir. Jan 10, 2014) (Garland, C. J.)

Date: 
Friday, January 10, 2014
Re: Request for "'any and all communications and records concerning ... how the FHFA and the Department of the Treasury determined that conservatorship,' instead of receivership, 'was the preferred option' for addressing the unstable condition of the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation in early September 2008."  Disposition: Affirming the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees
  • Attorney's Fees:  The court "finds[s] the plaintiff's challenge to the district court's treatment of the first requirement," eligibility, "perplexing."  The court explains that "[a]s should be apparent from our recitation of the district court's opinion, the court could not have incorrectly decided the question of eligibility because it did not decide the issue at all."  "Rather, it assumed arguendo that [plaintiff] satisfied the eligibility requirement and concluded that he nonetheless failed to satisfy the entitlement requirement."  As for the question of entitlement, the court holds that "[g]iven that we have found no abuse of discretion in the district court's assessment of each of the factors of the entitlement inquiry, it should come as no surprise that we likewise find no abuse in the court's final balancing."  "With the first and fourth factors 'strongly' weighing against fees, and the remaining factors 'do[ing] little to advance Plaintiff's position,' we could hardly find an abuse of discretion in the court's ultimate determination that, based on a 'careful balance of the relevant factors ... Plaintiff is not entitled to receive an award of fees and costs.'"  Regarding the first factor , the court agrees with the district court which "found that this first factor 'strongly counsels' against awarding fees" because "the two documents [plaintiff]  ultimately obtained were so heavily redacted that they contributed only 'scant' information to the public record."  Regarding the fourth factor, the court specifically discusses the fact that "[i]n the court's view, 'it was not unreasonable to assert the [deliberative process] privilege as a basis for withholding the information'" and "[a]s we have noted, [plaintiff] does not dispute the point."
Topic: 
Attorney Fees
Court of Appeals
Updated August 6, 2014