Niskanen Center, Inc. v. Dep't of Energy, No. 17-676, 2018 WL 4374920 (D.D.C. September 13, 2018) (Boasberg, J.)
Re: Request for information about the National Coal Council (NCC), a federal advisory committee
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part the parties motions for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: The court finds that the defendant "has not averred with adequate detail that all those offices and records systems likely to contain responsive documents have in fact been searched." The fact that the particular office searched "has 'primary' responsibility for overseeing NCC" is insufficient to justify why the Office of the Secretary was not searched, "despite his or her status as the designated recipient of NCC's advice." The court also found that the search "was not reasonably calculated to uncover all responsive documents as it did not contain terms reflecting the second half of the Center's request."
- Exemption 4: The court finds that documents at issue were required submissions to DOE because "DOE exercises substantial authority over NCC" and the Federal Advisory Committee Act "itself requires that DOE obtain a variety of documents from NCC." The court subsequently determines that some of the documents were not confidential. As to other documents, the court requests further briefing to resolve whether the documents are privileged under the attorney-client or attorney work-product privileges.