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Van Chase v. BIA, No. 18-2902, 2020 WL 3489469 (D.D.C. June 26, 2020) (Sullivan, J.)


Van Chase v. BIA, No. 18-2902, 2020 WL 3489469 (D.D.C. June 26, 2020) (Sullivan, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff

Disposition:  Granting defendants' motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for attorney fees and costs

  • Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal:  The court holds that "'Plaintiff does not dispute that [BIA's] search for records was adequate, or that the FOIA exemptions applied with regard to redactions [were] appropriate.'"  "With Plaintiff's concessions, and based on the Court's review of BIA's supporting declaration and Vaughn Index, there remains no material fact in genuine dispute regarding BIA's compliance with FOIA."
  • Attorney Fees:  "The Court summarily disposes of the demand for attorney fees because, as a pro se litigant, Plaintiff simply is not entitled to recover them."  "However, a pro se plaintiff may be able to recover his litigation costs."  "Because the Court has denied Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff is not eligible for an award of costs by having obtained a judicial order."  "Even if Plaintiff were eligible for an award of litigation costs, he fails to demonstrate that he is entitled to it."  The court explains that "Plaintiff's claim fails on the fourth factor [the reasonableness of the agency's withholding]."  "'Under the fourth factor, the question for a district court is not whether the agency's legal and factual positions were correct."  "The question is whether the agency's positions were reasonable.'"  "BIA shows that there was a pending post-conviction matter in state court when Plaintiff submitted his FOIA request."  "In the circumstances of this case, BIA reasonably could have taken the position that Exemption 7(A) applied because post-conviction proceedings in the federal and state courts were pending . . . ."  The court therefore accepts "BIA's argu[ment that] the end of Plaintiff's post-conviction proceedings, not the filing of this civil action, triggered the release of records responsive to his FOIA request."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Attorney Fees
Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal
Updated July 23, 2020