Case: Government Accountability Project v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

1:17-cv-02518 | U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Filed Date: Nov. 21, 2017

Closed Date: 2020

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On Nov. 21, 2017, the organization Government Accountability Project brought this suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Represented by the civil rights law firm Loevy & Lovey, the plaintiff sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Plaintiff is a nonprofit organization "serving the public by protecting government and corporate whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing." The complaint alleged that on Apr. 4, 2017, the pl…

On Nov. 21, 2017, the organization Government Accountability Project brought this suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Represented by the civil rights law firm Loevy & Lovey, the plaintiff sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Plaintiff is a nonprofit organization "serving the public by protecting government and corporate whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing." The complaint alleged that on Apr. 4, 2017, the plaintiff had submitted a FOIA request to the defendant seeking records concerning:

1. All non-exempt correspondence between White House staff and defendant concerning ideological tests at the U.S. border;

2. All correspondence concerning searches of citizens and non-citizens at the U.S. border, including searches of cellphones, the protocols, information about who was searched (with identifying information redacted), search rates, and protocols if a search is refused;

3. Any records generated in connection with topics listed above that raised or were responding to compliance of 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8) (a whistleblower protection statute for federal employees).

The complaint further alleged that, to date, the plaintiff had not received a substantive response from defendants. Plaintiff sought a disclosure order under FOIA, legal fees, and expedited action.

On Nov. 22, 2017, the case was assigned to Judge Christopher R. Cooper. The parties filed their first joint status report on Feb. 27, 2018, and their next on Apr. 3, specifying that DHS still needed to provide an estimated production schedule. According to a status report filed on May 8, DHS had completed processing the request and determined it had no responsive records.

Litigation continued, and the government moved for summary judgment. The court (Judge Christopher R. Cooper) denied the motion on Oct. 12, 2018. 335 F.Supp.3d 7. The court held that the government "unreasonably omitted additional search terms that quite likely would have generated a more robust return." The court held that "FOIA requests are not a game of Battleship [and t]he requester should not have to score a direct hit on the records sought based on the precise phrasing of his request. Rather, the agency must liberally interpret the request and frame its search accordingly." Accordingly, the court ordered the government to search for responsive records again pending the parties conferring over the search terms.

On November 16, 2018, the parties submitted a status report regarding their agreement with the search terms. The court reviewed the disagreements the plaintiff and the defendants had and concluded that the plaintiff's additional requests were beyond the scope of the original FOIA request. Therefore, the court ordered that the defendants need only conduct the additional search agreed upon in their status report, but that they must use the date of that search as the cut-off date for search returns.

In a status report dated September 13, 2019, the defendants stated that they had inadvertently utilized the cut-off date for the original search. In the subsequent two joint reports, the parties stated that DHS had completed its supplemental search and review of the returned records, and that none of the records were responsive to the FOIA request. The plaintiff stated that additional time was needed to determine whether any issues remained outstanding in this case. On the status reports dated January 7-8, 2020, the parties stated that the only outstanding issue was the payment of attorney fees, which they were unable to reach an agreement on. The plaintiff filed a motion for attorney fees on February 21, 2020, which was denied by Judge Cooper on June 2, 2020. The case was dismissed.

Summary Authors

Ava Morgenstern (4/7/2018)

Virginia Weeks (10/17/2018)

Averyn Lee (6/3/2020)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attrorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6228956/parties/government-accountability-project-v-united-states-department-of-homeland/


Judge(s)

Cooper, Christopher Reid (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Burday, Joshua Hart (Illinois)

Topic, Matthew Vincent (Illinois)

Wayne, Merrick Jason (Illinois)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Liu, Jessie K. (District of Columbia)

Simon, Jeremy S (District of Columbia)

Van Horn, Daniel F (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Cooper, Christopher Reid (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Burday, Joshua Hart (Illinois)

Topic, Matthew Vincent (Illinois)

Wayne, Merrick Jason (Illinois)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Liu, Jessie K. (District of Columbia)

Simon, Jeremy S (District of Columbia)

Van Horn, Daniel F (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:17-cv-02518

Docket [PACER]

June 2, 2020

June 2, 2020

Docket
1

1:17-cv-02518

Complaint

Nov. 21, 2017

Nov. 21, 2017

Complaint
5

1:17-cv-02518

Status Report and Proposed Schedule

Feb. 27, 2018

Feb. 27, 2018

Other
6

1:17-cv-02518

Status Report and Proposed Schedule

April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018

Pleading / Motion / Brief
15

1:17-cv-02518

Memorandum Opinion

Government Accountability Project v. Department of Homeland Security

Oct. 12, 2018

Oct. 12, 2018

Order/Opinion
17

1:17-cv-02518

Status Report Regarding Search Terms

Nov. 16, 2018

Nov. 16, 2018

Pleading / Motion / Brief
18

1:17-cv-02518

Order

Nov. 21, 2018

Nov. 21, 2018

Order/Opinion
20

1:17-cv-02518

Joint Status Report

Sept. 13, 2019

Sept. 13, 2019

Pleading / Motion / Brief
31

1:17-cv-02518

Order

June 2, 2020

June 2, 2020

Order/Opinion

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6228956/government-accountability-project-v-united-states-department-of-homeland/

Last updated Sept. 4, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT against UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY ( Filing fee $ 400 receipt number 0090-5216810) filed by GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Exhibit, # 3 Exhibit, # 4 Summons, # 5 Summons, # 6 Summons)(Burday, Joshua) (Entered: 11/21/2017)

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

2 Exhibit

View on PACER

3 Exhibit

View on PACER

4 Summons

View on PACER

5 Summons

View on PACER

6 Summons

View on PACER

Nov. 21, 2017

Nov. 21, 2017

RECAP

Case Assigned to Judge Christopher R. Cooper. (zsb)

Nov. 22, 2017

Nov. 22, 2017

PACER

Case Assigned/Reassigned

Nov. 22, 2017

Nov. 22, 2017

PACER
2

SUMMONS (3) Issued Electronically as to UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachment: # 1 Notice and Consent)(zsb) (Entered: 11/22/2017)

Nov. 22, 2017

Nov. 22, 2017

PACER
3

Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to Answer or Otherwise Respond to Complaint by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 01/17/2018)

Jan. 17, 2018

Jan. 17, 2018

PACER

MINUTE ORDER granting 3 Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time. Defendant's response to the complaint shall now be due by February 16, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 1/18/2018. (lccrc2)

Jan. 18, 2018

Jan. 18, 2018

PACER

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to

Jan. 18, 2018

Jan. 18, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines: Answer due by 2/16/2018 (lsj)

Jan. 18, 2018

Jan. 18, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Jan. 18, 2018

Jan. 18, 2018

PACER

Order

Feb. 14, 2018

Feb. 14, 2018

PACER

MINUTE ORDER: Before the Court in this FOIA case are a complaint and an answer. Since the requirements of LCvR 16.3 and Rule 26(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not apply, it is hereby ORDERED that the parties shall confer and file a joint proposed schedule for briefing or disclosure by February 28, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 2/14/2018. (lccrc2)

Feb. 14, 2018

Feb. 14, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Feb. 14, 2018

Feb. 14, 2018

PACER
4

ANSWER to 1 Complaint, by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY.(Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 02/14/2018)

Feb. 14, 2018

Feb. 14, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Proposed Briefing Schedule due by 2/28/2018 (lsj)

Feb. 14, 2018

Feb. 14, 2018

PACER
5

Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. (Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 02/27/2018)

Feb. 27, 2018

Feb. 27, 2018

PACER

MINUTE ORDER: In light of 5 the parties' Joint Status Report, the parties are directed to file a further joint status report by April 3, 2018 proposing a further schedule for production. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 2/28/2018. (lccrc2)

Feb. 28, 2018

Feb. 28, 2018

PACER

Order

Feb. 28, 2018

Feb. 28, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 4/3/2018 (lsj)

Feb. 28, 2018

Feb. 28, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Feb. 28, 2018

Feb. 28, 2018

PACER
6

Joint STATUS REPORT by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. (Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 04/03/2018)

April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018

PACER

MINUTE ORDER: In light of 6 the parties' joint status report, the parties are directed to file a further joint status report by May 8, 2018 proposing a further schedule for production. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 4/3/2018. (lccrc2)

April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018

PACER

Order

April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines: Joint Status Report due by 5/8/2018 (lsj)

April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018

PACER
7

Joint STATUS REPORT and Proposed Briefing Schedule by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. (Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 05/08/2018)

May 8, 2018

May 8, 2018

RECAP

MINUTE ORDER: In light of 7 the parties' joint status report, the summary judgment briefing schedule in this case shall be as follows: Defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be due by June 27, 2018; Plaintiff's combined opposition and cross-motion shall be due by July 27, 2018; Defendant's combined reply and opposition shall be due by August 17, 2018; and Plaintiff's reply shall be due by September 7, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 5/9/2018. (lccrc2)

May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018

PACER

Order

May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines: Summary Judgment motions due by 6/27/2018. Response to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 7/27/2018. Reply to Motion for Summary Judgment due by 8/17/2018. Replies due by 9/7/2018. (lsj)

May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018

PACER
8

MOTION for Summary Judgment, Local Rule 7(h) Statement and Supporting Memorandum by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order, # 2 Declaration of James V.M.L. Holzer)(Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 06/27/2018)

1 Proposed Order

View on PACER

2 Declaration of James V.M.L. Holzer

View on RECAP

June 27, 2018

June 27, 2018

RECAP
9

MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment by GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support Memorandum, # 2 Statement of Facts Statement of Genuine Issues of Fact, # 3 Statement of Facts Statement of Material Facts, # 4 Text of Proposed Order Proposed Order)(Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 07/27/2018)

1 Memorandum in Support Memorandum

View on RECAP

2 Statement of Facts Statement of Genuine Issues of Fact

View on PACER

3 Statement of Facts Statement of Material Facts

View on PACER

4 Text of Proposed Order Proposed Order

View on RECAP

July 27, 2018

July 27, 2018

RECAP
10

Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Combined Opposition and Reply by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 08/17/2018)

1 Proposed Order

View on PACER

Aug. 17, 2018

Aug. 17, 2018

PACER

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to

Aug. 20, 2018

Aug. 20, 2018

PACER

MINUTE ORDER granting 10 Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time. It is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's opposition and reply brief is due on or before September 10, 2018 and Plaintiff's reply is due on or before October 1. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 8/20/18. (lccrc2)

Aug. 20, 2018

Aug. 20, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Aug. 21, 2018

Aug. 21, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant's Opposition and Reply Brief due by 9/10/2018. (lsj)

Aug. 21, 2018

Aug. 21, 2018

PACER
11

Memorandum in opposition to re 9 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. (Attachments: # 1 Response to Plaintiff's Local Rule 7(h) Statement, # 2 Supplemental Declaration of James V.M.L. Holzer, # 3 Proposed Order)(Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 09/10/2018)

1 Response to Plaintiff's Local Rule 7(h) Statement

View on PACER

2 Supplemental Declaration of James V.M.L. Holzer

View on PACER

3 Proposed Order

View on PACER

Sept. 10, 2018

Sept. 10, 2018

RECAP
12

REPLY to opposition to motion re 8 MOTION for Summary Judgment, Local Rule 7(h) Statement and Supporting Memorandum (duplicate of Docket Entry No. 11) filed by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. (Attachments: # 1 Response to Plaintiff's Local Rule 7(h) Statement, # 2 Supplemental Declaration of James V.M.L. Holzer, # 3 Proposed Order)(Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 09/10/2018)

Sept. 10, 2018

Sept. 10, 2018

PACER
13

REPLY to opposition to motion re 9 MOTION for Partial Summary Judgment filed by GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT. (Topic, Matthew) (Entered: 10/01/2018)

Oct. 1, 2018

Oct. 1, 2018

PACER
14

ORDER denying 8 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and granting 9 Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 10/12/2018. (lccrc2) (Entered: 10/12/2018)

Oct. 12, 2018

Oct. 12, 2018

PACER
15

MEMORANDUM OPINION re 14 Order denying Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and granting Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 10/12/2018. (lccrc2) (Entered: 10/12/2018)

Oct. 12, 2018

Oct. 12, 2018

RECAP

Set/Reset Deadlines: Meet & Confer Statement due by 10/26/2018. Responses due by 11/2/2018. (znbn)

Oct. 12, 2018

Oct. 12, 2018

PACER
16

Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to Comply with Deadlines in Court's October 12, 2018 Order by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 10/24/2018)

Oct. 24, 2018

Oct. 24, 2018

PACER

MINUTE ORDER granting Defendant's 16 Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Comply with Deadlines in Court's October 12, 2018 Order. The October 26, 2018 deadline for the parties to meet and confer regarding potential search terms is now extended to November 9, 2018; the November 2, 2018 deadline for the parties, should they be unable to agree on search terms, to propose their preferred terms to the Court is now extended to November 16, 2018. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 10/25/2018. (lccrc2)

Oct. 25, 2018

Oct. 25, 2018

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines: Meet & Confer Statement due by 11/9/2018. Deadline for the parties, should they be unable to agree on search terms, to propose their preferred terms to the Court is now extended to 11/16/2018. (znbn)

Oct. 25, 2018

Oct. 25, 2018

PACER
17

Joint STATUS REPORT Regarding Search Terms by UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. (Simon, Jeremy) (Entered: 11/16/2018)

Nov. 16, 2018

Nov. 16, 2018

PACER
18

ORDER regarding additional search terms. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 11/21/2018. (lccrc2) (Entered: 11/21/2018)

Nov. 21, 2018

Nov. 21, 2018

RECAP
19

Notice of Appearance

Aug. 6, 2019

Aug. 6, 2019

PACER

.Order

Sept. 6, 2019

Sept. 6, 2019

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Sept. 6, 2019

Sept. 6, 2019

PACER
20

Status Report

Sept. 13, 2019

Sept. 13, 2019

PACER

.Order

Sept. 17, 2019

Sept. 17, 2019

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Sept. 17, 2019

Sept. 17, 2019

PACER
21

Status Report

Oct. 1, 2019

Oct. 1, 2019

PACER

.Order

Oct. 3, 2019

Oct. 3, 2019

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Oct. 4, 2019

Oct. 4, 2019

PACER
22

Status Report

Oct. 29, 2019

Oct. 29, 2019

PACER

.Order

Oct. 31, 2019

Oct. 31, 2019

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Oct. 31, 2019

Oct. 31, 2019

PACER
23

Status Report

Dec. 2, 2019

Dec. 2, 2019

PACER

.Order

Dec. 2, 2019

Dec. 2, 2019

PACER

Set/Reset Hearings

Dec. 3, 2019

Dec. 3, 2019

PACER

~Util - Set/Reset Deadlines

Dec. 6, 2019

Dec. 6, 2019

PACER

Telephone Conference

Dec. 6, 2019

Dec. 6, 2019

PACER

.Order

Dec. 6, 2019

Dec. 6, 2019

PACER
24

Status Report

Jan. 7, 2020

Jan. 7, 2020

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

Jan. 8, 2020

Jan. 8, 2020

PACER

.Order

Jan. 8, 2020

Jan. 8, 2020

PACER
25

Status Report

Feb. 6, 2020

Feb. 6, 2020

PACER
26

Attorney Fees

Feb. 21, 2020

Feb. 21, 2020

PACER
27

Memorandum in opposition to motion

March 23, 2020

March 23, 2020

PACER
28

Extension of Time to File Document

April 6, 2020

April 6, 2020

PACER

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to File

April 7, 2020

April 7, 2020

PACER

Set/Reset Deadlines

April 7, 2020

April 7, 2020

PACER
29

Reply to opposition to motion

May 7, 2020

May 7, 2020

PACER
30

Reply to opposition to motion

May 11, 2020

May 11, 2020

PACER
31

Order on Motion for Attorney Fees

June 2, 2020

June 2, 2020

PACER

Case Details

State / Territory: District of Columbia

Case Type(s):

Immigration and/or the Border

Special Collection(s):

Trump Administration FOIA cases

Multi-LexSum (in sample)

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 21, 2017

Closing Date: 2020

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A nonprofit organization protecting government whistleblowers

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 2018 - None

Content of Injunction:

Required disclosure

Issues

General:

Record-keeping

Records Disclosure

Search policies

Immigration/Border:

Admission - criteria

Admission - procedure

Border police

Visas - criteria

Visas - procedures