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Morley v. CIA, No. 03-2545, 2017 WL 1183895 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2017) (Leon, J.)


Morley v. CIA, No. 03-2545, 2017 WL 1183895 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2017) (Leon, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning CIA operations officer


Disposition: Denying plaintiff's renewed motion for attorney fees

  • Attorney Fees, Entitlement: The court holds that "plaintiff's Renewed Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs is denied." The court first finds that "[plaintiff's] request was more like searching for a needle in a haystack than a targeted query with 'decent chance' of turning up 'useful new information' about the JFK assassination." "But even taking the most generous possible interpretation – that information [responsive to the request] is 'useful' to disprove a possible conspiracy theory – [the court] find[s] that the expectation-adjusted value of the public benefit that plaintiff sought to provide was small." Second, the court finds that "[plaintiff's] commercial benefit from this FOIA litigation consisted of (1) some compensation for writing news articles, and (2) not having to expend resources engaging with the JFK collection at the National Archives." "Concededly, these private incentives are small, but so was the expectation-adjusted public benefit." "Accordingly, the first three factors do not clearly indicate whether the Court should award attorney's fees – it is a very close call whether taxpayers should provide an exogenous incentive for a request like [plaintiff's]." The court finds that, "[t]hankfully, the final factor breaks the tie – it weighs heavily against [plaintiff] and is ultimately dispositive." "An award of attorney's fees and costs is not necessary in this case to ensure that the agency refrains from needlessly frustrating efforts to obtain information." "As [the court] found in [a previous opinion], the 'CIA [ ] advanced a reasonable legal position' and did not engage 'in any recalcitrant or obdurate behavior'; hence, this factor 'weighs strongly in favor of the CIA.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Attorney Fees
Updated December 15, 2021