Reyes v. NARA, No. 17-1497, 2018 WL 6621352 (D.D.C. Dec. 18, 2018) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.)
Re: Request for U.S. Army Report on recognition of Filipino veterans of World War II
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for attorney fees and costs; awarding plaintiff $19,939.20 in fees and $429.20 in costs
- Attorney Fees, Eligibility: "The Court concludes in its discretion that Plaintiff substantially prevailed in her FOIA case based on the Court's Consent Order mandating that Defendant release responsive records by a date certain." Responding to defendant's objection, the court finds that "[t]hat the Court ordered Defendant to do something that it had voluntarily agreed to do in the course of litigation is irrelevant." "What matters is that the Court ordered Defendant to take an action, make an initial release of responsive records . . ., that Defendant had been unwilling to do prior to the initiation of the lawsuit."
- Attorney Fees, Entitlement: "[A]fter considering all the factors, the Court concludes that the factors cumulatively weigh in favor of finding that Plaintiff is entitled to attorneys' fees." First, "[t]he Court concludes that Plaintiff's FOIA request inured to the public benefit as it related to a matter of public concern." Next, "[b]ecause Plaintiff initiated her FOIA litigation as a substitute for discovery in her veterans' benefits appeal, the Court concludes that these factors weigh against granting attorneys' fees." "However, due to other circumstances, such as the limited potential for financial gain and her pro bono representation, the Court further concludes that minimal weight should be given to these two factors." Finally, the court finds that "Defendant never presented a lawful reason for withholding Plaintiff's requested documents." "In fact, Defendant never even explicitly withheld Plaintiff's requested documents." "Instead, a backlog of other FOIA requests prevented Defendant from processing Plaintiff's FOIA request in a timely manner."
- Attorney Fees, Calculations: "[T]he Court agrees in part with Defendant and finds that the use of two attorneys was unreasonable given the circumstances of this case." "The Court will reduce Plaintiff's attorneys' fees award accordingly." "However, the Court finds Plaintiff's request to be otherwise reasonable given the amount of work which was required." Additionally, "[g]iven the comprehensive nature of Plaintiff's 13-page motion for fees, as well as the fact that the request for fees on fees is proportional to the overall request for fees, the Court will not reduce the award of fees on fees."