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Hodes v. U.S. Department of Treasury

United States District Court, District Circuit

September 25, 2013

SCOTT HODES, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, Defendant

MEMORANDUM OPINION

AMY BERMAN JACKSON, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Scott Hodes brings this lawsuit against defendant United States Department of Treasury, Financial Management Service (“FMS”), alleging that FMS violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, by failing to respond adequately to his requests for documents. Compl. ¶¶ 23–25 [Dkt. # 1]. Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief and an injunction compelling FMS to release the documents sought. Id. at 7. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. See Pl.’s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 14] (“Pl.’s Mot.”); Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 13] (“Def.’s Mot.”). The Court will grant summary judgment in favor of plaintiff because FMS has not met its burden to establish that the materials withheld are exempt from disclosure.

FOIA provides that the duty to disclose government records to requesters “does not apply to matters that are . . . specifically exempted from disclosure by a statute” that leaves the agency with no discretion on the matter. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3)(A)(i). Here, plaintiff seeks the names of unsuccessful bidders for a particular set of government contracts, Compl. ¶ 11; Pl.’s Mem. in Supp. of Pl.’s Mot. (“Pl.’s Mem.”) [Dkt. # 14-2] at 1, and the government has identified 41 U.S.C. § 4702, the prohibition against the release of contractor proposals, as the statute that supplies the basis for the claimed exemption, Def.’s Mem. in Support of Def.’s Mot. (“Def.’s Mem.”) [Dkt. # 13-1] at 2; see also Compl. ¶ 14. So the narrow question before the Court is whether bidders’ names are covered by this ban on an agency’s disclosure of “proposals, ” and the Court concludes that they are not.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Scott Hodes, a Maryland citizen, “is an attorney licensed to practice in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.” Compl. ¶ 4. FMS is a component of defendant Department of Treasury, a federal agency. Id. ¶ 5. On March 7, 2012, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request for information regarding RFP TFMS-HQ-06-Q-011, a government contract for debt collection services. Id. ¶ 11; Solicitation/Contract/Order for Commercial Item, Ex. A to Compl.; Pl.’s Mem.at 3. Specifically, plaintiff sought:

1. The complete request for proposal;
2. Any and all addendums issued for the request for proposal;
3. Any and all documents answering vendors questions of the request for proposal;
4. Documents including but not limited to spreadsheets and e-mails showing how many companies submitted offers and which companies submitted offers;
5. Documents including but not limited to spreadsheets and e-mails showing pricing submitted by all companies that submitted offers;
6. Documents including but not limited to e-mails showing how and why selected vendor(s) were awarded;
7. Any rankings showing how the government ranked various interested parties to the contract; and
8. A copy of the task order contract or similar document signed with the ...

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