Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fraternal Order of Police v. District of Columbia

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

November 7, 2013

FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, Metropolitan Police Labor Committee, Appellant,
v.
The DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellee.

Argued Sept. 25, 2013.

Page 348

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 349

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 350

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 351

Barbara E. Duvall, with whom Paul A. Fenn, Baltimore, MD, was on the brief, for appellant.

Jason Lederstein, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before GLICKMAN and BECKWITH, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

Glickman, Associate Judge:

The Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Labor Committee (" FOP" ) appeals the trial court's partial award of summary judgment to the District of Columbia in its civil action stemming from a request under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ). FOP argues that the court erred in (1) upholding the District's assertion of the deliberative process privilege with respect to certain requested documents, (2) sanctioning an inadequate search for responsive documents, and (3) ruling that the District's response to its FOIA request was timely. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the court's judgment in part and remand for further proceedings to determine the availability of the deliberative process privilege and the adequacy of the District's document search.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On July 23, 2010, FOP made a FOIA request for all documents " in possession, custody, or control of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)" relating to the MPD's involvement with an organization known as Peaceoholics.[1] The District had

Page 352

fifteen work days, or until August 13, 2010, to respond to this request by making the records " accessible" to FOP or specifying what documents it had determined to withhold and " the reasons therefor." [2] On August 10, 2010, however, before the District's response was due, FOP filed a FOIA action against the District in Superior Court to compel it to produce the requested documents. FOP apparently jumped the gun in the mistaken belief that the statutory deadline for a response from the District had passed.

Three days later, the District answered FOP's FOIA request. It informed FOP that 120 pages of responsive documents were available for pick up, and it provided a so-called Vaughn index [3] listing approximately 300 documents being withheld in whole or part (the " First Production" ). The District asserted the deliberative process privilege as its reason for not producing many of the withheld documents.[4] A few months later, though, the District voluntarily produced all but six of those documents (the " Second Production" ). The District also explained that it had looked for documents responsive to the FOIA request by searching the electronic communications of seventeen named MPD employees (and the hard drives and paper files of two of them), using several search terms (such as " peaceoholics and grant" and " peaceoholics and evaluation" ).

Meanwhile, the District moved to dismiss FOP's lawsuit as having been filed prematurely. In April 2011, the trial court granted the District's motion and dismissed the FOIA action without prejudice.

FOP commenced the current action three months later by filing a new complaint challenging the adequacy of the District's response to its FOIA request. In due course, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. On May 1, 2012, the trial court issued an order granting each party's motion in part. It upheld the District's invocation of the deliberative process privilege, and it rejected FOP's contention that the District's response to its FOIA request had been untimely. But the court partly agreed with FOP that the District had not conducted a thorough enough search for responsive documents; although the court was not persuaded that the District should have searched the files of additional individuals or in additional locations, it ruled that the District had utilized unduly narrow search terms in carrying out its search. Accordingly, though the court refused to direct the District to expand its search in other respects, it ordered the District to look for all documents containing the word " Peaceoholics" and report the results within twenty days. [5]

On May 15, 2012, before the District submitted its report, FOP moved the court to reconsider its grant of partial summary

Page 353

judgment to the District and asked the court to view in camera the documents for which the District had invoked the deliberative process privilege.[6] Six days later, on May 21, 2012, the District produced documents discovered in the expanded search that the court had ordered (the " Third Production" ), along with a supplemental Vaughn index in which the District invoked the deliberative process privilege to withhold parts of some sixty-two of the newly found documents. After the District thereafter filed its opposition to FOP's motion for reconsideration, the trial court granted leave for FOP to reply. In its reply, FOP called the court's attention to the Third Production and challenged the District's assertion of the deliberative process privilege to shield ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.