Monday, February 25, 2013
Re: Request for records concerning vacancy announcements for specified time period Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment
- Personal knowledge requirement of declarant: The court rejects plaintiff's arguments that Interior provided a defective declaration because of "personal knowledge, competency, and hearsay objections." The court finds that Interior's declarant satisfies all requirements under the FOIA. Interior's declarant "clearly and unequivocally sets forth his competency and personal knowledge in the text of his affidavit – he expressly states that he has 'personal knowledge of this case because [he] was assigned to in on or about October 18, 2011.'" In addition, all the information in his declaration was based upon his "personal knowledge or information furnished to [him] in [his] official capacity." In addition, with respect to plaintiff's claims that the declaration was deficient because it was not signed under penalty of perjury, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, the court finds that this is simply "not true." Although the declarant's original declaration did contain "the qualifying phrase 'to the best of my knowledge'" it was expressly signed under penalty of perjury and he removed the 'qualifying language' in his revised declaration. Notably, the court finds that the "original affidavit satisfied the requirements of § 1746, [and] the unequivocal statement in his revised declaration removes any and all doubt."
- Timeliness: The court refuses to grant summary judgment to plaintiff based on defendant's untimeliness in responding to her request. "While the Court agrees that the Department's responses were untimely under the statute, the Department's untimely responses, in and of themselves, do not entitle [plaintiff] to judgment in her favor." The court further opines, that "given that the Department has now responded to [plaintiff's] request – a fact she does not dispute – the only issue for the Court to consider at this point is whether the Department's response complies with its obligations under FOIA."
- Procedural: With respect to the portion of the request concerning the plaintiff's request for information concerning vacancy announcements in the specified time period, the court finds that "[t]he Department fully complied with [plaintiff's] modified request, and she cannot now argue that she is entitled to additional records that fall outside the scope of the request as she narrowed it." The plaintiff does not dispute that she agreed that "spreadsheets using fields that were 'identical or equivalent to' the parameters from the [Department of] Energy sample" she provided to defendants, would be "fully responsive" to her request.
- Unreasonably burdensome search: The court holds that Interior "properly declined to respond to [plaintiff's] request [concerning hiring reform] as unreasonably burdensome." Plaintiff sought "'all nonexempt internal communications relating to hiring reform and [the Department's] efforts from January 1, 2009 through January 31, 2011.'" As the Department explained, because it had created a special task force, responding to the request as worded "would require a search of every email sent or received by 25 different employees through a two-year time period." The court found that "the Department has demonstrated that responding to the full scope of [plaintiff's] original 'hiring reform' request would require the Department 'to locate, review, redact, and arrange for inspection of a vast quantity of material.'" Based upon this and "given the absence of any contrary argument on [plaintiff's] part," the court concludes "that the Department acted properly."
Updated August 6, 2014