Weikamp v. Dep't of the Navy, No. 14-22, 2016 WL 1244793 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 29, 2016) (Oliver, Jr., C.J.)
Re: Request for records concerning construction project
Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for attorney fees and costs
- Attorney Fees, Eligibility: The court first holds that plaintiff is eligible for an award of attorney fees. The court notes that "[d]efendant 'concedes that Plaintiff substantially prevailed' with respect to [one portion of the request]." Nevertheless, the court relates that defendant argues that "'[p]laintiff, as a pro-se attorney plaintiff, is ineligible to receive fees for his work.'" However, the court finds that "[p]laintiff repeatedly disclosed that he submitted the FOIA request and filed the instant action on behalf of his client" and, therefore, "[p]laintiff, on behalf of his client . . . is eligible for an award under FOIA."
- Attorney Fees, Entitlement: The court holds that "[s]ince the court could not conclude that Defendant acted with no reasonable basis in law, and the public benefit factor and the commercial benefit and nature of the Plaintiff's interests factor do not weigh in favor of awarding fees and costs, the court denies Plaintiff's Motion for Fees." First, the court finds that, "[w]hile there is public benefit in bringing Defendant into compliance with the FOIA and providing some public knowledge to the Navy's bid review process . . . the information at issue is highly particularized to a specific contract" and "was sought for the private benefit of Plaintiff's client . . . in its contract dispute against Defendant." "Thus, on balance, the court finds that [the public benefit] factor neither favors nor disfavors an award of attorneys' fees." Second, "the court finds that [the commercial benefit and nature of plaintiff's interest] factor[s] [are] neutral as to an award of fees under FOIA" because "[plaintiff's client] seeks to use the records in support of [its] contract claim against Defendant . . . [and] Plaintiff's interest in the records is private and self-interested, rather than public in nature." Last, regarding the reasonable basis in law factor, the court finds that "[d]efendant did point to specific, reasonable exemptions as the bases for its withholdings" and "the court does not find that Defendant had no reasonable basis in law for considering the documents exempt."