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Ramos v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., No. 22-20312, 2023 WL 2213396 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 24, 2023) (Bloom, J.)


Ramos v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., No. 22-20312, 2023 WL 2213396 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 24, 2023) (Bloom, J.)

Re:  Request for certain records concerning plaintiff’s work at USDA

Disposition:  Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, Time Limits:  The court finds that “Defendant does not contest that it failed to comply with the statutory timeframes required by FOIA.”  “However, ‘an agency’s failure to comply with these statutory deadlines is not an independent basis for a claim.’”  “Because Counts II and VI allege failures to comply with statutory timeframes required by FOIA and those statutory deadlines do not provide an independent basis for a claim, the Court must grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Counts II and VI.”
  • Procedural Requirements, Responding to FOIA Requests:  Responding to plaintiff’s argument, the court finds that “[t]he record evidence demonstrates that each of the responses to Plaintiff’s FOIA requests is signed by [the] Director, Office of Information Affairs, and includes contact information for a person to call if there are any questions.”  “Plaintiff has not supplied any evidence to refute the fact that adequate information was provided.”  “Furthermore, Plaintiff has not demonstrated that failure to provide the name and position of the person responsible for the denial of records constitutes a basis for a separate cause of action.”
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration & “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements:  The court holds that “Plaintiff’s assertion that Defendant failed to provide a Vaughn Index or any explanation for its failure to disclose documents unredacted is directly contradicted by record evidence, specifically the . . . Declaration and Vaughn Index filed by Defendant.”  “The Court has reviewed the . . . Declaration and Vaughn Index which provide justifications for redacting certain responsive documents and withholding others pursuant to recognized FOIA exemptions.”  “Plaintiff does not challenge any specific document withheld or the justifications proffered in the . . . Declaration or Vaughn Index.”  “Defendants have provided both a declaration and a Vaughn Index to establish an adequate factual basis demonstrating that it properly invoked FOIA exemptions when it decided to withhold information.”  “The Vaughn Index lists responsive documents by bates numbers, describes the groups of documents listed, lists the FOIA Exemption or basis for withholding, and provides a written justification for the withholding in paragraph form.”  “The Declaration . . . also certifies that Defendant ‘carefully reviewed each responsive record on a page-by-page and line-by-line basis to identify reasonably segregable, non-exempt information.’”  “The Declaration further certifies that ‘[a]ll information not exempted from disclosure pursuant to the FOIA exemptions . . . was correctly segregated and non-exempt portions were released.’”  “Because Plaintiff does not lodge specific challenges to any of the documents withheld and has failed to point to any evidence to rebut Defendant’s assertion of compliance with its obligations under FOIA, there is no dispute of material fact.”
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Procedural Requirements, Responding to FOIA Requests
Procedural Requirements, Time Limits
Updated March 22, 2023