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Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, et al v. United States Department of State

April 15, 2011

ANCIENT COIN COLLECTORS GUILD, ET AL.,
APPELLANTS
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:07-cv-02074)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Williams, Senior Circuit Judge:

Argued January 24, 2011

Before: ROGERS and TATEL, Circuit Judges, and WILLIAMS, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Senior Circuit Judge WILLIAMS.

The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act ("CPIA"), 19 U.S.C. §§ 2600-13, allows the President to enter into agreements to restrict importation of cultural artifacts pursuant to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. 823 U.N.T.S. 231 (1972).

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee ("CPAC") is a federal advisory committee (within the meaning of the Federal Advisory Committee Act ("FACA"), Public Law 92-463, 5 U.S.C. App. 2). It advises the State Department's

Undersecretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs on import restriction requests from foreign governments. 19 U.S.C. § 2605. CPAC has no final authority to approve or deny import restrictions. But when the Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs enters into a Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign country on import restrictions, it must file a report with Congress that indicates how and why the import restrictions differ from CPAC's recommendations. 19 U.S.C. § 2602(g)(2).

This case concerns eight requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, the International Association of Professional Numismatists, and the Professional Numismatists Guild, Inc. (collectively, the "Guilds") seeking records from the State

Department relating to import restrictions imposed on cultural artifacts from China, Italy, and Cyprus. In response, State released 70 documents in full and 39 documents in part and withheld 19 documents entirely under various FOIA exemptions. Supplemental Declaration of Margaret P.

Grafeld, Joint Appendix ("J.A.") 229. The Guilds filed suit challenging the withholding of certain of these documents pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 1, 3, and 5 (as well as certain other exemptions not contested in this appeal), and the adequacy of State's search in response to the FOIA requests.

See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1), (3), (5). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of State on all claims. Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Dep't. of State, 673 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2009).

We find that State's invocation of Exemptions 1 and 5 was proper, as was part of its withholding under Exemption 3, but we reverse and remand the district court's dismissal of the Guilds' claims as to one document withheld under Exemption 3 and (in part) as to the adequacy of the search.

An agency withholding responsive documents from a FOIA request bears the burden of proving the applicability of the claimed exemptions. American Civil Liberties Union v.

U.S. Dept. of Defense, 628 F.3d 612, 619 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Uncontradicted, plausible affidavits showing reasonable specificity and a logical relation to the exemption are likely to prevail. Larson v. Dep't of State, 565 F.3d 857, 862 (D.C. Cir. 2009). We ...


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