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Stalcup v. DOD, No. 22-1405, 2024 WL 2871046 (1st Cir. June 4, 2024) (per curiam)


Stalcup v. DOD, No. 22-1405, 2024 WL 2871046 (1st Cir. June 4, 2024) (per curiam)

Re:  Requests for records concerning 1996 crash of TWA flight 800 and records concerning missile activity around time of crash

Disposition:  Rejecting requester’s challenges to orders denying sanctions and motion to compel; affirming district court’s grant of government’s motion for summary judgment; vacating final judgment and remanding to allow district court to determine whether requester substantially prevailed, and if so, whether requester is entitled to fees and/or costs

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit holds that “[the requester] now appeals the grant of summary judgment as to [the Missile Defense Agency (“MDA”) and the Office of Joint Staff (“JS”)] searches and argues that the district court erred in denying his request for attorney’s fees and costs without explanation and without providing him an opportunity to file a separate motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d).”  “In addition, [the requester] seeks review of the denial of a motion for sanctions as well as a motion to compel that was filed as a separate miscellaneous matter.”  “[The court] agree[s] with the district court’s assessment that the most recent declarations submitted by DOD were sufficient to correct deficiencies previously identified and that, taken together, the declarations submitted over the course of the proceedings were adequate to satisfy the agency’s initial burden of proving that it conducted a reasonably thorough search for responsive records.”  “[The court] also agree[s] with the conclusion that [the requester] failed to present facts sufficient to establish that DOD acted in bad faith.”  “Further, the district court did not err in applying a ‘good cause’ standard to [the requester’s] request for additional discovery pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) . . . .”  “[The court] also see[s] no abuse of discretion in the denial of the motion to compel, to the extent that claim of error is properly raised in the context of this appeal, or in the denial of the motion for sanctions.” 

    “However, because it appears that [the requester] has at least a colorable claim of entitlement to attorney’s fees and/or costs, [the court] conclude[s] that the district court erred in denying that relief without first making a finding as to eligibility under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E).”  “Accordingly, a limited remand for the purpose of addressing that question is warranted.”
Court Decision Topic(s)
Court of Appeals opinions
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Updated July 8, 2024