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Smallwood v. DOJ, No. 16-01654, 2017 WL 3085319 (D.D.C. July 19, 2017) (Cooper, J.)


Smallwood v. DOJ, No. 16-01654, 2017 WL 3085319 (D.D.C. July 19, 2017) (Cooper, J.)

Re:  Attorney requested records concerning class action settlement involving attorney's client

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, Pleadings:  "[T]he Court must dismiss this suit for lack of standing."  The court relates that the question presented is "[a]n attorney makes a Freedom of Information Act request for documents that are of interest to her client, but does not indicate that the request is being made on the client's behalf."  "Does the client have standing to file suit challenging the agency's response to the request?"  "The Court joins numerous of its colleagues in answering no."  "The FOIA request at issue in this case clearly indicates that [the] attorney is the requester."  "In fact, [the client's] name does not appear anywhere in the request."  "Accordingly, while [the] attorney might have standing to pursue [the] FOIA request in federal court, [the client] himself 'has not made a formal request within the meaning of the statute,' . . . and therefore lacks standing to do so."  "To be sure, an attorney may make a FOIA request on behalf of a client."  "But the attorney 'must clearly indicate that it is being made on behalf of the [client] to give that [client] standing to bring a FOIA challenge.'"  Last, regarding the client's attempt to cure this issue, the court finds that "'[t]he elucidation of [an attorney-client] relationship on appeal does not change the nature of the request itself.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Pleadings
Updated December 14, 2021