Thursday, April 25, 2013
Re: Records concerning plaintiff's employment as Foreign Service Officer Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction seeking to mandate processing of plaintiff's three FOIA requests in an expedited manner
- Expedited Processing: The court finds that plaintiff has not satisfied any of the four factors which would support issuance of a preliminary injunction to compel expedited processing of plaintiff's requests. The court notes that when considering plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction, the court must weigh four factors: "'(1) whether the plaintiff has a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the plaintiff would suffer irreparable injury were an injunction not granted; (3) whether an injunction would substantially injure other interested parties; and (4) whether the grant of an injunction would further the public interest.'"
Specifically regarding the first factor in the preliminary injunction analysis, the court states that the 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(E)(i)(II) provides for expedited processing when a requester demonstrates "'compelling need.'" The court notes that 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(E)(v) defines "compelling need" as meaning, "'with respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.'" The court notes that it is reviewing the denial of expedited processing under the de novo standard, and needs not defer to any agency determinations of "compelling need." "The State Department does not contest that Truthout is 'primarily engaged in disseminating information' or that the subject of the records concerns 'actual or alleged Federal Government activity.'" The court finds that plaintiff has failed, however, to present facts "support a finding that there is an urgency to inform." Plaintiff does not demonstrate that the information is a "'matter of a current exigency to the American public.'" Moreover, the court finds that while the records "may be of a concern to the Foreign Service community . . . that does not mean that it is 'a breaking news story of general public interest.'" Nor do investigations by the Office of the Inspector General or the Government Accountability Office give rise to any sense of urgency, the court finds. Additionally, the court finds that plaintiff's "submission of one article, a series of posts on a specialized blog, and [plaintiff Truthout's] representation that it 'intends' to publish a story do not come close to demonstrating a comparable level of media interest." Therefore, the court finds that plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the merits of their expedited processing claim.
Although the court notes that there is no need for it to consider the remaining factors, the court does state that if these additional factors were considered, they would not favor plaintiffs. The court states that there is not "a robust public discussion taking place on this topic at this time, such that plaintiffs would be harmed by receiving this information at a later date." The court additionally states that granting plaintiff's motion would cause injury to the agency because "many FOIA requesters are standing in line waiting for the agency to fulfill their obligation under FOIA and sequestration will undoubtedly only diminish the agency's ability to respond in the future to FOIA requests in a timely fashion." Lastly, the court notes that plaintiff "does nothing to distinguish [their] FOIA request from any other FOIA request" and therefore does not demonstrate that their preliminary injunction will be in the public interest.
Updated August 6, 2014