United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
to a Freedom of Information Act request, Plaintiff Freedom
Watch, Inc., seeks documents relating to a type of sanctions
waiver the U.S. State Department granted to certain countries
doing business with Iran. The Court previously granted
summary judgment to State in 2015, concluding that it had
adequately but unsuccessfully searched for such records.
See Freedom Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of State
(Freedom Watch I), 77 F.Supp.3d 177 (D.D.C. 2015).
During the pendency of Plaintiff's appeal therefrom, it
was publicly revealed that former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton had used a personal email and server to conduct
Department business. Reopening the case, the Court
subsequently oversaw State's search of those emails for
responsive records and in April 2016 again granted its
summary-judgment motion. See Freedom Watch, Inc. v. U.S.
Dep't of State (Freedom Watch II), 2016 WL
1555672 (D.D.C. Apr. 15, 2016). When news broke a few months
later that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had recovered
and given to State thousands of new documents related to
Clinton's personal email and server, Freedom Watch filed
the instant Motion for Relief from Judgment, which the Court
will now deny.
21, 2013, Plaintiff submitted the following FOIA request to
the U.S. State and Treasury Departments:
Any and all documents that refer or relate in any way to the
final decisions to grant waivers to all countries and other
interests doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran
pursuant to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability,
and Divestment Act [CISADA], 22 U.S.C. § 8501 et seq.
or Executive Order 13553.
ECF No. 57-2 (Declaration of John F. Hackett), Exh. 1 at 2.
Upon receipt of this request, State undertook several
detailed steps, including the search of eleven separate
offices or records systems. See Freedom Watch I, 77
F.Supp.3d at 179-80. No responsive documents were located.
Id. at 180. Unsatisfied with that result, Plaintiff
brought suit and State (Treasury having been dismissed) moved
for summary judgment. Id. In granting judgment on
the adequacy of the search - the only issue Plaintiff had
raised - the Court rejected several challenges, finding that:
(1) four press releases trumpeted by Freedom Watch as having
not been produced were, in actuality, not responsive to the
request; (2) Defendant was not required to also search for
documents relating to waivers issued under the National
Defense Authorization Act of 2012, where the request had
exclusively cited CISADA and Executive Order 13553; (3) State
had consulted with appropriate individuals in conducting the
search; and (4) discovery regarding the search process was
not warranted. Id. at 182-83.
appealed, and fairly soon thereafter, news reports about
Clinton's private email account and server appeared.
Seizing on this development, Freedom Watch asked the Court of
Appeals to remand the matter for discovery and an order to
show cause why Clinton should not be held in contempt. The
D.C. Circuit ultimately ordered that “the case be
remanded for the district court to manage record development
and oversee the search of the former Secretary's emails
for records responsive to Freedom Watch's FOIA
request.” ECF No. 54 (Mandate). The Court of Appeals
further ordered that “the motion for discovery and
other relief be denied without prejudice to Freedom Watch
seeking the same relief from the district court on
Court immediately set a status conference, at which it
ordered the government to search the emails in its possession
and advise Plaintiff of the results. See Minute
Orders of Nov. 3, 2015, and Nov. 24, 2015. State did so and
then renewed its motion for summary judgment, explaining that
it had “conducted a supplemental search” of
“approximately 30, 000 e-mails, comprising
approximately 52, 455 pages, ” and located no
responsive records. See Hackett Decl., ¶¶
10-11, 14 (footnote omitted). Freedom Watch believed
Defendant's efforts were insufficient and opposed the
motion on essentially the same grounds that the Court had
previously found wanting.
Court concluded that State's search for responsive
materials contained in the new Clinton emails was adequate,
finding that: (1) State's search was not deficient simply
because it found no responsive documents, and the myriad
press releases and newspaper articles Plaintiff cited did not
suggest otherwise, as none mentioned CISADA or Executive
Order 13553, the subjects of Plaintiff's FOIA request;
(2) discovery was not warranted; and (3) Defendant was not
required to canvass offices within State for documents, as
the search was limited to a fixed set of emails. See
Freedom Watch II, 2016 WL 1555672, at *4-5. The Court,
accordingly, granted State's renewed motion for summary
judgment. Id. at *5.
months after the Court again entered judgment in favor of
Defendant, and while Plaintiff's appeal was pending,
“the FBI delivered to State discs containing
information recovered by the FBI during the course of its
investigation into former Secretary Clinton's use of a
personal email account.” Opp. at 3-4. This Court, in
fact, is overseeing in another matter the review of
approximately 14, 900 emails on the first of those discs.
See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of State,
No. 15-687, Minute Orders of Aug. 22, 2016, and Sept. 23,
2016. In light of those new emails, Freedom Watch has now
filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment under Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure 60(b)(2) and (3). See Mot. at 3.
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) governs the vacating of
judgments. As relevant here, it permits the Court to
“relieve a party or its legal representative from a
final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following
reasons: . . . (2) newly discovered evidence that, with
reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time
to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b), ” and
“(3) fraud . . ., misrepresentation, or misconduct by
an opposing party.”
obtain relief from a judgment under Rule 60(b)(2), a movant
must demonstrate that:
(1) the newly discovered evidence [is] of facts that existed
at the time of trial or other dispositive proceeding, (2) the
[party seeking relief] must have been justifiably ignorant of
[the evidence] despite due diligence, (3) the evidence must
be admissible and of such importance that it probably would
have changed ...