Schoeffler v. Dep't of Agric., No. 17-00055, 2018 WL 1182555 (D. Ariz. Mar. 7, 2018) (Snow, J.)

Date: 
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Schoeffler v. Dep't of Agric., No. 17-00055, 2018 WL 1182555 (D. Ariz. Mar. 7, 2018) (Snow, J.)

Re: Requests for records concerning plaintiff as well as concerning nineteen firefighters who perished while working to fight Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  In response to plaintiff's objections, the court holds that "the government affidavits were submitted by . . . individuals who are knowledgeable and who have access to the information in agency files."  "The affidavits detail the process followed by the USFS to search for the information [plaintiff] requested."  "The affidavits are proper and may be considered by the Court."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "USDA completed an adequate search for records [concerning the nineteen firefighters who perished]."  USDA instructed the agency [which would have these records] to search for the records requested by [plaintiff]."  "[Plaintiff] failed to raise a sufficient dispute of facts to justify additional discovery."  "With regards to records about [plaintiff], however, [the court finds that] there are questions of fact about whether the USDA completed an adequate search."  "[Plaintiff] identified a specific custodian of records as requested by USDA, enabling USDA to run a more thorough search."  "USDA did not run this search."  "USDA also did not search for records from the additional agencies and date ranges requested by [plaintiff] in his addendums and clarifications."  The court finds that "[t]here are questions of fact as to whether the USDA conducted an adequate search, and the USDA is therefore not entitled to summary judgment for [that portion of the request]."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  The court holds that, "[b]ecause actual exhaustion is required and [plaintiff] did not do so [regarding one request], the Court grants summary judgment as to [that] request[.]"  The court relates that "[a]lthough the USDA responded past the FOIA deadlines, [plaintiff] received a response before he filed this lawsuit."  The court finds that "[o]nce the agency responds, even if late, 'the requester can seek judicial review only after he has unsuccessfully appealed to the head of the agency as to any denial.'"
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
Declarations
District Court
Exhaustion
Litigation Considerations
Vaughn Index
Updated July 3, 2018