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Case Name Poitras v. Department of Homeland Security NS-DC-0099
Docket / Court 1:15-cv-01091 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) National Security
Case Summary
On July 13, 2015, a documentary film-maker and journalist who focuses on post-9/11 United States filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Plaintiff alleged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department ... read more >
On July 13, 2015, a documentary film-maker and journalist who focuses on post-9/11 United States filed this suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Plaintiff alleged that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (Defendants) improperly withheld documents requested under FOIA relating to the systematic, targeted treatment experienced by Plaintiff in airport security between 2006 and 2012.

During this time period, the Plaintiff claimed to have been detained and questioned on every re-entrance into the U.S. after traveling internationally. Plaintiff was additionally subjected to Secondary Security Screening Selection (increased security selection) on some domestic flights. Plaintiff alleged that the treatment stems from Plaintiff's journalistic and documentary work, which documents and examines U.S. security and military conduct post-9/11. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleged that the pattern of airport detainment, questioning, and increased security screening began with Plaintiff's promotion of the documentary "My Country, My Country" (2006) in July 2006 and continued until a fellow journalist reported on the repeated detainments in April 2012. The documentary was about the U.S. military occupation of Iraq.

On January 24, 2014, the Plaintiff filed FOIA requests with the Defendants and constituent agencies requesting all agency records pertaining to the Plaintiff. When the Defendants did not comply, the Plaintiff filed this lawsuit to compel a response to the FOIA requests.

On July 13, 2015, the Plaintiff filed this lawsuit for injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking compliance with the Plaintiff's earlier FOIA requests. Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson was assigned the case.

On September 18, 2020, the Court ordered the parties to confer and file a joint proposed schedule for briefing or disclosure. The parties filed a joint status report on October 1, 2015, agreeing that the defendants would begin producing non-exempt records requested by November 13, 2015.

After about a year of various releases, preliminary motions, and time extensions, the Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in June 2016. The Plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment in August 2016.

On March 21, 2017, the Court denied without prejudice the Plaintiff's cross motion and granted in part and denied in part without prejudice Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court found that general declarations about categories of withholdings
in support of the Defendants' invoked FOIA exemptions were insufficient to allow the Court to determine whether such exemptions were properly invoked. Because of this, the Court ordered the parties file a proposed schedule with due dates for (1) a Vaughn Index of the FBI's withholdings and (2) renewed motions for summary judgment for remaining issues.

On April 25, 2017, the parties submitted a new proposed briefing schedule, which was approved on May 10, 2017. On July 24, 2017, the Defendants filed their second motion for summary judgment. The Plaintiff filed her second cross motion on August 21, 2017. The briefing schedule was temporarily suspended on September 18, 2017 after the Defendant FBI identified additional documents that were unintentionally withheld and the Plaintiff needed to review those records to determine any challenges against the new FBI withholdings. A new briefing schedule was adopted in October.

On October 24, 2017, the case was reassigned to Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell.

On February 15, 2018, the Plaintiff filed a reply to opposition of her cross motion for summary judgment. On March 29, 2018, Chief Judge Howell granted defendants’ second motion for summary judgment and denied the Plaintiff’s second cross-motion for summary judgment because the court found that the FBI’s withholdings were appropriate under exemptions 5 and 7 of FOIA, and the CBP’s search of the New York field office was adequate. Additionally, the court held that both the FBI and the CBP satisfied their segregability obligations. 303 F.Supp.3d 136.

On October 1, 2018, the Plaintiff moved for an award of $63,130 in attorneys’ fees and costs as a substantially prevailing party. The Defendants opposed the Plaintiff's motion on November 19. On April 11, 2019, the court denied Plaintiff’s motion for an award of attorneys’ fees, finding that the Plaintiff's purpose of the FOIA request was self-interested and that Defendants' reasons for withholdings were reasonable. 2019 WL 1569561.

Ian Sander - 11/28/2016
Cade Boland - 03/13/2018
Claire Shimberg - 05/07/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Records Disclosure
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Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description American documentary film-maker and journalist.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Unknown
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
None yet
Filed 07/13/2015
Case Closing Year 2019
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
D.D.C. 1:15-cv-1091
NS-DC-0099-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/11/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.D.C.
Complaint for Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
NS-DC-0099-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
Order Denying Motions for Summary Judgment Without Prejudice and Requiring Submission of a Vaughn Index [ECF# 22] (2017 WL 7053929)
NS-DC-0099-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/31/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 37] (303 F.Supp.3d 136)
NS-DC-0099-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/29/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 52] (2019 WL 1569561)
NS-DC-0099-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/11/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Howell, Beryl Alaine (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-0003 | NS-DC-0099-0005 | NS-DC-0099-9000
Jackson, Ketanji Brown (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cardozo, Nathan (California) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-0001
Lynch, Jennifer (California) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-0001
Sobel, David L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-0001 | NS-DC-0099-9000
Williams, Jamie (California) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Edney, Marsha S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-9000
Singer, Samuel M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0099-9000

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