Friday, December 6, 2013
Re: Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees resulting from litigation concerning plaintiff's request for certain defendant e-mails Disposition: Affirming the district court's grant of attorney's fees to plaintiff
- Attorney's Fees: The court affirms the decision of the district court. The court finds that "[t]he district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that 'Plaintiff's action has resulted in a public benefit by shedding light on [defendant's] treatment of its personnel, forcing [defendant] to comply with [the FOIA], and uncovering other emails bearing on problems with the agency's operations.'" The court also concludes that "[n]or was it an abuse of discretion to conclude that [plaintiff's] 'personal and commercial interest' in the materials sought is 'outweighed by the public benefit of the action and [defendant's] failure to disclose the disputed documents earlier.'" However, the court also finds that "[t]he district court may . . . have abused its discretion in assessing another factor supporting [plaintiff's] entitlement to attorneys' fees: whether [defendant's] 'withholding of the records sought had a reasonable basis in law.'" The court explains that "[a]lthough the Court does not find that [defendant] acted in bad faith, ... [defendant's] initial refusal to disclose the 157 emails to [plaintiff] was not entirely reasonable." However, the court finds that "[o]n balance . . . the overall reasonableness of the government's litigation behavior, supports [plaintiff's] entitlement to attorneys' fees." The court also finds that "[t]he district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing [plaintiff's] fee award to reflect his limited success" and that "[i]t was not an abuse of discretion for the district court to conclude that [plaintiff'] 'is not entitled to fees with respect to the documents produced in response to the EEOC discovery process.'"
Court of Appeals
Updated August 6, 2014