Case: Prison Legal News v. District of Columbia

08-04598 | District of Columbia state trial court

Filed Date: June 25, 2008

Closed Date: 2011

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On June 25, 2008, Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication, filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Represented by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice, PLN brought this action under the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (D.C. FOIA), D.C. Code § 2-537(a)(1), requesting a response to a request previously filed with the OAG without the charging of fees.Spe…

On June 25, 2008, Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication, filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Represented by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice, PLN brought this action under the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (D.C. FOIA), D.C. Code § 2-537(a)(1), requesting a response to a request previously filed with the OAG without the charging of fees.

Specifically, on January 7, 2008, PLN had requested that the OAG release the initial claim or complaint and the verdict sheet, settlement, and/or general release filed in each case where the District of Columbia Department of Corrections paid more than $1,000 in damages, attorneys' fees, or sanctions from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2007. PLN also sought a waiver of fees in the request. PLN sought to publish this information to inform the public on how the D.C. prison system is run and managed. The OAG denied the fee waiver request claiming that it was not in the interest of the OAG to waive copying costs associated with the request, and also refused to produce the records in electronic format, which would have eliminated any copying costs. PLN claimed that the OAG did not take into account the public interest in denying the fee waiver that PLN was eligible for under law. PLN sought declaratory and injunctive relief for the requested records without any fees, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

On September 2, 2008, the OAG filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the requested documents had already been made available to PLN. On January 13, 2011, PLN reported that they were able to obtain over 600 responsive documents from the OAG. However, PLN claimed that the delivery of the documents was caused by this lawsuit being filed, and thus moved for attorneys' fees and costs on June 8, 2011. On December 1, 2011, Judge Michael Rankin issued an order granting attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $75,290 to PLN. Judge Rankin held that there was a "causal nexus" between PLN's lawsuit and the production of responsive documents, and thus PLN was entitled to attorneys' fees and costs under D.C. FOIA. The case was closed following Judge Rankin's order.

Summary Authors

John He (11/6/2015)

People


Judge(s)

Rankin, D. Battle (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Messineo, Carl L (District of Columbia)

Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara E (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

DeMarco, Juliane T. (District of Columbia)

McKinley, Erica Taylor (District of Columbia)

Nickles, Peter J. (District of Columbia)

Valentine, George C. (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Rankin, D. Battle (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Messineo, Carl L (District of Columbia)

Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara E (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

DeMarco, Juliane T. (District of Columbia)

McKinley, Erica Taylor (District of Columbia)

Nickles, Peter J. (District of Columbia)

Valentine, George C. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket

Dec. 1, 2011 Docket

Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief

June 25, 2008 Complaint

Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Fees and Costs

Dec. 1, 2011 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Prison Legal News Homepage

Prison Legal News

Prison Legal News (PLN), a project of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center, is a 72-page monthly magazine that reports on criminal justice issues and prison and jail-related civil litigation, w… https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/...

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: District of Columbia

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Special Collection(s):

Prison Legal News

Key Dates

Filing Date: June 25, 2008

Closing Date: 2011

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A non-profit monthly publication which reports on criminal justice issues and prison and jail-related civil litigation, with an emphasis on prisoners' rights.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General (Washington, District of Columbia), State

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Monetary Relief

Non-settlement Outcome

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Amount Defendant Pays: $75,290.00

Content of Injunction:

Required disclosure

Issues

General:

Funding

Record-keeping

Records Disclosure