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Schmidt v. Shah

March 18, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge


This is a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") case brought by Plaintiff Joseph James Schmidt against his former employer, the United States Agency for International Development ("USAID"). Schmidt claims that USAID has violated the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, by failing to timely respond to three requests he submitted to USAID on May 14, September 9, and September 16, 2008. Schmidt seeks a complete response to his requests, with no exceptions, and a waiver of any applicable charges based on the agency's failure to provide a timely response. USAID contends that it has now produced all responsive documents and properly redacted or withheld certain documents pursuant to FOIA Exemption 5, see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5), and FOIA Exemption 6, see id. § 552(b)(6). Defendant*fn2 has filed a [16] Motion for Summary Judgment on this basis, which Schmidt opposes. Schmidt has also filed a [19] Motion Regarding Defendant's Lack of Responsiveness to Freedom of Information Requests (hereinafter, "Pl.'s Mot."), which the Court construes as a cross-motion for summary judgment. Schmidt has filed numerous briefs in support of his position and in opposition to Defendant's motion, and the motions are now ripe for decision.*fn3 After a thorough review of the parties' submissions and attachments thereto and applicable case law and statutory authority, the Court shall GRANT-IN-PART and DENY-IN-PART WITHOUT PREJUDICE Defendant's motion for summary judgment, granting the motion as to all issues except the adequacy of the search regarding electronic back-up tapes and records in the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of Financial Management, or the Office of the General Counsel, with respect to which the motion shall be denied without prejudice. The Court shall also DENY Schmidt's construed motion for summary judgment, denying without prejudice with respect to the adequacy of the search as described above.


A. Schmidt's FOIA Requests

On May 14, 2008, Schmidt submitted a FOIA request via email to USAID. The request sought the following information: "All email correspondence (emails, memos and letter) produced by the following individuals related specifically to me (but addressed to persons other than me) as of August 1, 2006, including any deleted emails on backup tape: [list of nine individuals]." See Def.'s Stmt.*fn4 ¶ 2. Schmidt followed up on his request with email inquiries on June 24, June 30, and July 9, 2008. Answer at 2. On July 10, 2008, USAID FOIA Team Leader Sylvia Lankford responded to Schmidt and apologized for an apparent mix-up caused by an earlier FOIA request submitted by Schmidt that is not relevant to this litigation. See Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 3 (7/10/2008 email from Lankford to Schmidt). Schmidt's FOIA request was given a tracking number (F-00237-08) and assigned to Ms. Gwen Marcus for processing. Id. On July 15, 2008, Ms. Marcus responded to Schmidt and assured him that the agency was working towards completing his request. Id. (7/15/2008 email from Marcus to Schmidt). On September 29, 2008, Schmidt sent a complaint by email about the delay in processing his May 14 request. See id. (9/29/2008 email from Schmidt to Lankford).

On September 9, 2008, Schmidt submitted a second FOIA request seeking "[a]ll information, including email correspondence, memos and letters" regarding fifteen separate matters identified by Schmidt. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 3. Many of these matters pertain to issues that were raised by Schmidt in a related case that was dismissed by this Court. See Schmidt v. Shah, Civil Action No. 08-1831 (D.D.C. Mar. 17, 2010). The fifteen items requested can be summarized as follows:*fn5

1. information regarding the alleged use of Iraq-related appropriations for non-Iraq-related services and an alleged cover-up thereof;

2. information provided by a particular named USAID official to other agency officials regarding Schmidt's protected EEO information, which Schmidt believed to be an unlawful disclosure;

3. "Information relating to the Office of Acquisition and Assistance's handling of [Schmidt's] confidential medical leave information";

4. "Information regarding the sharing of [Schmidt's] confidential employee and medical information" by three particular named agency officials and other unnamed agency officials in violation of the Privacy Act;

5. information regarding the sharing of Schmidt's confidential EEO information on the part of two named individuals in the USAID's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP);

6. information regarding USAID's evaluation of Schmidt's application for employment under job announcement number AID-08-0019A-DC13;

7. information related to the agency's review of Schmidt's Leave without Pay (LWOP), including its determination regarding over $10,000 allegedly owed to Schmidt and the rationale for not reimbursing him for funds erroneously taken from his paychecks;

8. information regarding the agency's decision to deactivate Schmidt's USAID identification badge;

9. information pertaining to one named agency official's refusal to provide Schmidt with a written job recommendation;

10. information generated by a named USAID attorney for review and comment by other agency officials regarding Schmidt's employment with the agency;

11. meeting notes relating to a teleconference between Schmidt and his former supervisor when she purportedly denied Schmidt a "reasonable accommodation" for his disability;

12. information regarding the agency's alleged gross negligence in not promptly removing Schmidt from its payroll system following his resignation and producing a ...

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