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Pit River Tribe v. BLM, No. 04-cv-0969, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106903 (E.D. Cal July 29, 2013) (Mendez, J.)

Re: Defendants' motion for summary judgment on grounds that FOIA claim is barred by the general statute of limitations for claims against the United States, 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a). Disposition: Granting summary judgment for defendant
  • Litigation Considerations:  The court finds that plaintiff's "claim is barred."  The court notes that, "FOIA claims are subject to the six-year-limitations period imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a)."  Plaintiff "delayed seeking judicial review for more than nine years."  The Court finds that "[plaintiff]'s claim accrued at the latest on January 30, 2004, when [defendant] issued its response to [plaintiff]'s last appeal."  The court calculates that, "[t]he limitations period expired six years later, at the end of January 2010," but that, "[p]laintiffs did not assert their FOIA claim until they filed the First Amended Complaint on March 6, 2013 - more than three years too late."  The court further concludes that, "[t]he FOIA claim does not relate back to the filing date of the original complaints," because, "the original complaints did not assert any claim based on the withholding of documents requested by [defendant]."  Moreover, the court denies plaintiff's request for equitable tolling because the court finds that plaintiff "did not lack any information bearing on the existence of its claim, because the [defendant] effectively told [plaintiff] that it had a perfected FOIA claim."  The court notes that "[t]he denial letters sent on September 30, 2003, and January 30, 2004, expressly state that [plaintiff] 'ha[d] the right to treat the delay in responding [further] . . . as a final denial of [its] request and to seek judicial review.'"  Finally, "the Court finds equitable estoppel does not apply" because "[defendant]'s conduct was not a deliberate lie or pattern of misconduct."  Instead, the court again notes that "the agency informed [plaintiff] that it could bring a FOIA claim immediately," and, therefore, plaintiff "has not demonstrated any affirmative misconduct by defendants that goes beyond mere negligence or even amounts to negligence."
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Updated August 6, 2014