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


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.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Updated December 3, 2021