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JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. v. U.S. DEPT. OF JUSTICE

September 8, 2000

JUDICIAL WATCH, INC. PLAINTIFF,
V.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennedy, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this action, plaintiff, Judicial Watch, Inc. (Judicial Watch), seeks judicial review of the response of defendant, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), to Judicial Watch's request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C.A. § 552 (West 1996) (FOIA). Specifically, Judicial Watch challenges DOJ's refusal to release certain documents, DOJ's decision to deny Judicial Watch a fee waiver, and DOJ's decision not to categorize Judicial Watch as a representative of the news media. Presently before the court is DOJ's motion for partial summary judgment with respect to DOJ components the Office of Information and Privacy (OIP) and the Civil Division on the fee-waiver and fee-category issues. Having reviewed DOJ's motion for partial summary judgment, the opposition thereto, and the record of the case, the court concludes that DOJ's motion should be granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 28, 1998, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request to DOJ seeking:

all correspondence, memoranda, documents, records, lists of names, applications, diskettes, letters, expense logs and receipts, calendar or diary logs, facsimile logs, telephone records, tape recordings, notes, electronic mail, and other documents and things, that refer or relate to the following in any way:

1) Orrin Hatch;

2) Bill Gates;

3) James L. Barksdale;

4) Marc Andreessen;

5) Microsoft Corporation;

6) Netscape Communications Corporation;

7) Novell, Inc.;

8) Eric E. Schmidt;

9) The White House.

Judicial Watch stated that it would "use the requested material to promote accountable government as a representative of the news media,"*fn1 and requested a blanket fee waiver.

On November 10, 1998, Margaret Ann Irving, Deputy Director of OIP, acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch's request and "advised [Judicial Watch] that searches were being conducted . . . ."*fn2 The same letter notified Judicial Watch of OIP's decision to deny it a fee waiver and to categorize Judicial Watch as an "all other" requester, rather than as a "representative of the news media."*fn3 In a follow-up letter on November 23, 1998, OIP informed Judicial Watch that it had completed the two hours of search time and duplication of 100 pages of records that FOIA allots requesters free of charge. OIP also advised Judicial Watch that it would suspend processing of the request until Judicial Watch promised to pay search and duplication fees. Judicial Watch appealed the agency's decision on January 11, 1999, and OIP upheld its decision.

On January 28, 1999, the Civil Division also denied Judicial Watch's fee-waiver and fee-category requests. The Civil Division informed Judicial Watch that it had concluded the required two hours of search time, and attached to the letter a list of case files located by the search. The Civil Division advised Judicial Watch that it would not continue processing Judicial Watch's request unless Judicial Watch executed a "written agreement to be bound for fees."*fn4 On ...


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