Truthout v. Department of Justice

Filing 66

ORDER signed by Judge Lawrence K. Karlton on 6/3/14 DENYING 63 Motion for Reconsideration. (Meuleman, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 TRUTHOUT, 12 CIV. S-12-2601 LKK/CKD Plaintiff, 13 14 No. v. ORDER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 15 Defendant. 16 Plaintiff Truthout sued the U.S. Department of Justice 17 18 (“DOJ”) under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 19 (“FOIA”), seeking the release of certain records withheld by the 20 agency in response to a FOIA request. The DOJ previously moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 27.) 21 22 In support of its motion, the agency lodged the in camera, ex 23 parte declaration of one David Hardy, while filing a redacted 24 version on the court’s electronic docket.1 (ECF No. 27-5.) In 25 1 26 27 28 The operative complaint describes Hardy as “the chief of the FOIA office.” (Complaint ¶ 18.) Hardy avers in his declaration that he is “the Section Chief of the Record/Information Dissemination Section of the Records Management Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Winchester, Virginia.” (Redacted Hardy Decl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 27-5.) 1 1 response, Truthout moved the court to either strike Hardy’s 2 declaration from the record or, alternatively, to order it filed 3 on the public record. (ECF No. 50.) 4 By order dated May 5, 2014, the court denied Truthout’s 5 motion regarding the Hardy declaration, and granted the DOJ’s 6 motion for summary judgment. Truthout v. Dep’t. of Justice, __ F. 7 Supp. 2d __, 2014 WL 1794449, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62607 (E.D. 8 Cal. 2014). 9 10 11 Truthout now moves for reconsideration of that portion of the order granting summary judgment to the DOJ. (ECF No. 63.) Truthout bases its motion on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 60(a), which permits the court to “correct . . . a mistake 13 arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a 14 judgment, order, or other part of the record.” 15 According to Truthout, the court erred by ruling on the 16 motion for summary judgment without permitting Truthout to file 17 an opposition. Pursuant to an agreement between the parties, 18 briefing on the DOJ’s summary judgment motion was stayed while 19 the court decided Truthout’s motion to either strike, or order 20 publicly-filed, the Hardy Declaration. (Order, ECF No. 49.) Yet 21 the court ruled on the motion without lifting the stay. Truthout 22 contends: 23 24 25 26 27 28 By granting summary judgment on 6 May 2014, the Court ruled on Defendant’s Motion without “the benefit of informed advocacy to draw its attention to the weaknesses in the withholding agency’s arguments.” Wiener v. FBI, 943 F.2d 972, 977 (9th Cir. 1991). While Truthout concedes that, without access to the in camera, ex parte declaration, its ability to argue is constrained, that does not mean 2 1 that it has no arguments to make, and the rules of civil procedure mandate that it still be allowed an opportunity to “draw [the Court’s] attention to the weaknesses in [Defendant’s] arguments.” (Motion for Partial Reconsideration 2, ECF No. 63.) 2 3 4 5 Truthout is incorrect when it argues that the Federal Rules of 6 Civil Procedure mandate the opportunity to oppose a summary 7 judgment motion. As Rule 56(a) plainly states, “The court shall 8 grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no 9 genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is 10 entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” 11 As discussed in its prior order, the court concluded, after 12 reviewing the unredacted Hardy declaration, that FOIA Exemption 13 7E was indisputably satisfied. The court therefore deemed 14 additional briefing regarding the summary judgment motion to be 15 unnecessary. Its decision to forego further briefing was not an 16 “oversight or omission,” but a deliberate choice. 17 The court sympathizes with any frustration that Truthout may 18 feel at not being able to be heard regarding the propriety of 19 summary judgment, particularly in the face of secret evidence. 20 Nevertheless, this is one of those (thankfully rare) cases when 21 the evidence presented in camera was so conclusive as to the 22 questions presented that further briefing and argument was 23 clearly unnecessary. The court has the inherent power to manage 24 its docket, and in the interests of judicial economy, chose to 25 terminate the litigation. Under these circumstances, grounds for 26 reconsideration are absent. 27 //// 28 3 1 2 Accordingly, Truthout’s motion for partial reconsideration is hereby DENIED. 3 IT IS SO ORDERED. 4 DATED: June 3, 2014. 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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