United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 17) DEFENDANT’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. 28)
E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.
before the Court is (1) Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (Dkt. 17) and (2) Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. 28). Having carefully considered the
record and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters
the following Memorandum Decision and Order:
an action under the Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”) to compel Defendant Bureau of Land
Management (“BLM”) to produce records that
Plaintiff Western Watersheds Project (“WWP”)
requested in two unrelated FOIA requests in 2017 and 2018.
The first request (FOIA Control Number 2018-00056), sent on
September 27, 2017, concerned an audio recording and
presentation slides from a BLM National Office presentation
that occurred on September 21, 2017, regarding changes to the
BLM’s implementation of several laws. The second
request (FOIA Control Number 2018-00591), sent on March 14,
2018, concerned Endangered Species Act (“ESA”)
consultation records related to the BLM’s Converse
County Oil and Gas Project in Wyoming. According to
WWP’s Complaint, the BLM did not produce a full
response or determination with respect to either FOIA request
within the time allowed by statute and, to that end, WWP has
received no records or other legally adequate response
concerning either request.
answered WWP’s Complaint on February 7, 2019, filing an
Amended Answer on February 14, 2019. Four days later, WWP
filed its Motion for Summary Judgment, requesting that the
Court enter (1) summary judgment declaring that the BLM
violated FOIA by failing to timely respond to both requests,
and (2) an order directing the BLM to immediately release all
responsive records and enjoining BLM from continuing to
withhold records to which WWP is entitled. The parties agreed
to stay the briefing on WWP’s Motion for Summary
Judgment in the hopes of informally resolving the case; when
that proved unsuccessful, the BLM also moved for summary
judgment, arguing that (1) it complied with 2018-00056 in
full on February 25, 2019 and, therefore, WWP’s First,
Second, and Third Claims for Relief should be dismissed; and
(2) despite its diligence in attempting to timely respond to
2018-00591, unusual circumstances justify the need for
judgment is proper when a “movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A fact is “material” if it “might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). And a dispute is “genuine”
if there is evidence in the record sufficient for a
reasonable trier of fact to decide in favor of the nonmoving
party. Id. The court must view the inferences
reasonably drawn from the materials in the record in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587–88 (1986), and “may not weigh the evidence or
make credibility determinations, ” Freeman v.
Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997).
respect to summary judgment procedure, the moving party
always bears both the ultimate burden of persuasion and the
initial burden of producing those portions of the pleadings,
discovery, and affidavits that show the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving
party will bear the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it
mush show that no reasonable trier of fact could not find in
its favor. See id. at 325. “If a moving party
fails to carry its initial burden of production, the
nonmoving party has no obligation to produce anything, even
if the nonmoving party would have the ultimate burden of
persuasion at trial.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins.
Co. v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1099,
1102–03 (9th Cir. 2000).
however, a moving party carries its burden of production, the
nonmoving party must produce evidence to support its claim or
defense.” Id. at 1103. In doing so, the
nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec., 475 U.S. at 586. A
nonmoving party must also “identify with reasonable
particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment,
” because the duty of the Court is not to “scour
the record in search of a genuine issue of triable
fact.” Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279
(9th Cir. 1996). If a nonmoving party fails to produce
evidence that supports its claim or defense, the court must
enter summary judgment in favor of the movant. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
standard applicable to motions for summary judgment does not
generally change if the parties file cross motions, as is the
case here. See, e.g., Cady v. Hartford Life
& Accidental Ins., 930 F.Supp.2d 1216, 1223 (D.
Idaho 2013). However, the court must evaluate each
party’s motion on its own merits. See Fair Hous.
Council of Riverside Cty., Inc. v. Riverside Two, 249
F.3d 1132, 1136 (9th Cir. 2001).
“was enacted to facilitate public access to Government
documents.” Lahr v. Nat’l Transp. Safety
Bd., 569 F.3d 964, 973 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal
citation omitted). The goal of FOIA is to “ensure an
informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic
society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the
governors accountable to the governed.” Id.
(internal citation omitted). At the same time, FOIA
contemplates that the government may have legitimate reasons
for withholding some information from the public. See
id. Accordingly, FOIA “requires federal agencies
to make Government records available to the public, subject
to nine exemptions for specific categories of
material.” Milner v. Dep’t of Navy, 562
U.S. 562, 564 (2011). These nine FOIA exemptions are
“explicitly made exclusive and must be narrowly
construed.” Id. at 565 (internal citations
cases are typically decided on motions for summary judgment
because the facts are rarely in dispute. See Minier v.
Cent. Intelligence Agency, 88 F.3d 796, 800 (9th Cir.
1996). Upon a motion for summary judgment, a district court
analyzes the withholding of documents de novo. 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). FOIA permits a district court to
enjoin a defendant agency from withholding agency records or
to order a defendant agency to produce any improperly
withheld records. See id.
defendant agency “must show that its search for
responsive records was adequate, that any claimed exemptions
actually apply, and that any reasonably segregable,
non-exempt parts of records have been disclosed after
redaction of exempt information.” Light v.
Dep’t of Justice, 968 F.Supp.2d 11, 23 (D.D.C.
2013); accord Lahr, 569 F.3d at 973; Pac.
Fisheries, Inc. v. United States, 539 F.3d 1143, 1148
(9th Cir. 2008). The agency bears the burden to show that it
has complied with its obligations under FOIA. See 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B).
begin, the BLM concedes that it did not timely respond to
2018-00056, but it says that it ultimately complied with the
request in full on February 25, 2019:
Request 2018-00056, to BLM in Washington, D.C., was for a
presentation to BLM Secretary of Interior Zinke. The
Washington Field Office of BLM had a large volume of FOIA
requests [(350 requests by the end of 2017)]. It ...