University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
view search results
page permalink
Case Name Electronic Frontier Foundation v. U.S. Department of Justice NS-CA-0027
Docket / Court 4:16-cv-02041 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) National Security
Special Collection Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- All Matters
Case Summary
On April 19, 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization concerned with technology-related civil liberty issues, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) under the ... read more >
On April 19, 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization concerned with technology-related civil liberty issues, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 5 U.S.C. § 552. The EFF sought injunctive relief for the release of any documents relating to DOJ applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) requesting third parties, such as Apple, to provide access to encrypted communications or to provide other types of technical assistance to access private communications between 1978 and June 1, 2015. The EFF alleged that despite filing a FOIA request on March 7, 2016, the DOJ failed to respond substantively to the request, continued wrongfully withholding the requested records, and that the EFF had exhausted available FOIA administrative remedies to obtain the documents.

On September 22, 2016, the DOJ filed a motion for partial summary judgment, and on October 13, 2016, the EFF filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment. On September 29, 2016, District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. denied without prejudice both the DOJ’s and EFF's motion for summary judgment. Since the parties filed their motions, they had been working cooperatively to process EFF’s FOIA request. Since the parties acknowledged that the scope of their ongoing dispute would be unknown until after the documents were released, the court found that the parties’ pending motions for summary judgment were moot.

On September 25, 2017, January 31, 2018, and August 22, 2018, the DOJ released a total of seventy-three out of seventy-nine documents it had identified as being responsive to EFF’s FOIA request (for the released documents, see (). The DOJ contended that the remaining six documents were exempted from disclosure under FOIA exemptions. On July 26, 2018, the DOJ filed a motion for partial summary judgment, and on August 23, 2018, the EFF filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. On March 26, 2019, Judge Gilliam granted the DOJ’s motion for partial summary judgment and denied the EFF’s cross motion. The plaintiffs had argued that §402 of the USA FREEDOM Act, which requires conditional declassification of certain FISC opinions, barred the DOJ from relying on FOIA exemptions to withhold the six documents, which were FISC opinions. Judge Gilliam found that using FOIA to enforce §402 would require the court to impose remedies outside of FOIA’s requirements, and thus did not need to address the issue of whether §402 even applied retroactively. Furthermore, he found that the DOJ had provided sufficiently detailed factual information in support of its FOIA exemptions, and that the EFF had failed to overcome the good faith presumption to which the DOJ’s declarations of exemptions are entitled to.

On April 5, 2019, the parties filed a joint status report, notifying the court that, outside of attorney’s fees, no dispute remained to be resolved. The parties submitted a proposed judgment for the DOJ as to its responses to the EFF’s FOIA requests at issue. They also requested that the court order the parties to provide a status report, due by May 9, 2019, regarding the parties’ efforts to resolve disputes arising from the EFF’s claim to attorney’s fees and costs as a result of bringing this action.

Lisa Limb - 03/28/2018
Lisa Limb - 04/05/2019


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) United States Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization concerned with technology-related civil liberty issues.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Filing Year 2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
4:16-cv-2041 (N.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0027-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/05/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive Relief for Violation of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 [ECF# 1]
NS-CA-0027-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/19/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Denying Plaintiff's Cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF# 74] (N.D. Cal.)
NS-CA-0027-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/26/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Gilliam, Haywood Stirling Jr. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
NS-CA-0027-0002 | NS-CA-0027-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cardozo, Nathan (California) show/hide docs
NS-CA-0027-0001 | NS-CA-0027-9000
Crocker, Andrew (California) show/hide docs
NS-CA-0027-9000
Mackey, Aaron David (California) show/hide docs
NS-CA-0027-0001 | NS-CA-0027-9000
Rumold, Mark Thomas (California) show/hide docs
NS-CA-0027-0001 | NS-CA-0027-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berman, Julia Alexandra (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-CA-0027-9000
Patton, Rodney (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-CA-0027-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
view search results
page permalink

- top of page -