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Fraternal Order of Police v. District of Columbia

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

April 2, 2015

FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, METROPOLITAN LABOR COMMITTEE, APPELLANT,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, APPELLEE

Argued: December 4, 2014.

Page 196

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-4125-12). (Hon. Anthony Epstein, Trial Judge).

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

Mary L. Wilson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, and THOMPSON and BECKWITH, Associate Judges.

OPINION

Page 197

Beckwith, Associate Judge :

The Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Labor Committee, appeals from a trial court order dismissing its Freedom of Information Act claims as moot and denying its application for attorney's fees. We affirm.

I.

On February 9, 2012, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) submitted a formal request for documents to the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) pursuant to the D.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), D.C. Code § § 2-531 to -540 (2012 Repl.). FOP requested emails and attachments sent among four D.C. government email addresses during a specified time period, as well as all emails containing the word " recruiting" sent and received by one D.C. government address. According to the District, these email addresses belonged to " high-ranking members" of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). MPD acknowledged on February 14, 2012, that it received the FOIA request from OCTO, triggering the fifteen-day statutory time period to respond,[1] and MPD advised FOP that it " may" exercise the " 10 business day extension delay" [2] due to the breadth of the request and the need to coordinate with other divisions within the department.

MPD did not produce any documents within twenty-five business days. On March 28, 2012, MPD notified FOP that the request was " delayed due to the volume of various emails pursuant to [FOP's] request," stating that the response was being worked on " [p]resently" and that MPD would notify FOP at its " earliest convenience when the response [was] completed."

On May 14, 2012, FOP sued the District (for the actions of OCTO and MPD) pursuant to D.C. Code § 2-537 (a-1) (2012 Repl.) to compel a response. The District filed an answer on November 9, 2012, admitting that " it had not provided documents to Plaintiff in response to its FOIA request dated February 9, 2012." The District claimed that its acts were " reasonable, lawful, and necessary under [the] circumstances, and in accord with all applicable regulatory, statutory, common law and constitutional requirements, and standards of care."

FOP moved for summary judgment that same day, noting that the District did not cite any legal authority to justify its failure to provide all responsive material within the statutory timeframe.[3] FOP sought an order compelling the District to produce all requested documents, a declaratory judgment that the District's failure to respond ...


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