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Case Name Buzzfeed Inc. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement IM-DC-0048
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-01501-KBJ ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Trump Administration FOIA cases
Attorney Organization Loevy & Loevy
Case Summary
On June 25, 2018, Buzzfeed and Loevy & Loevy brought this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The plaintiffs sought to shed light on ICE’s use and review of solitary ... read more >
On June 25, 2018, Buzzfeed and Loevy & Loevy brought this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The plaintiffs sought to shed light on ICE’s use and review of solitary confinement for individuals in its custody, citing ICE policy which requires additional oversight of decisions to hold detainees in segregation for over 14 days. Earlier, in October 2017, ICE approved the plaintiffs' expedited processing for its FOIA request filed in September 2017. Over the next several months, ICE failed to produce any documents and provide a future date for their production as required by law. In March 2018, Buzzfeed filed an administrative appeal to DHS regarding ICE’s failure to produce documents within a reasonable time frame. In April 2018, DHS responded that the request was pending but declined to provide an estimated document production date. This suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and assigned to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The plaintiffs sought written notices sent to ICE field office directors documenting instances when an ICE detainee was held continuously in segregation for over 14 days, as well as reviews of those notices which were to be completed every 14 days per ICE policy. The complaint noted that, according to UN experts, holding individuals in solitary confinement for over 15 days may constitute torture and lead to irreversible psychological damage.

On August 2, 2018, the defendants filed an answer to the plaintiffs' complaint admitting that it had not produced any documents in response to the FOIA request. On September 19, 2018, the defendants informed the court that it had identified over 8,100 documents responsive to the request and proposed a processing and production schedule of 400 pages per month to be completed in May 2020. The plaintiffs objected to ICE's proposed completion date as it was 3 years past the date the request was made and proposed a 90 day schedule to the court.

On October 4, 2018, Judge Jackson ordered ICE to file a supplemental declaration with the court explaining its FOIA-processing capacity and the reason for delay in this case. In an answer filed on October 16, 2018, ICE stated that the plaintiffs' expedited processing request was made in error, and that ICE FOIA's office has an especially heavy workload this year, among other things.



In a minute order filed on October 22, 2018, the court found that while it does not dispute ICE’s reasons for delay in this case, the “instant request qualifies for special treatment given its declared expedited processing status, and the agency’s considerable and unexplained delay in producing any records in this matter.” As such, the court ordered ICE to provide 8,100 pages of documents at the rate of 1000 pages per month, to be completed on or before August 1, 2019. The court further ordered ICE to produce the first batch of documents on or before December 1, 2019, and to file a status report 60 days after the first production and every 60 days thereafter.

Following this order, the parties filed a series of status reports. In status reports filed on February 25, 2019, April 24, 2019, the parties stated the number of produced documents and plans for future document production, among other things.

In the status report filed on August 26, 2019, the parties proposed the schedule for cross-motions for summary judgment. On November 26, 2019, DHS the parties filed a joint consent motion to stay summary judgment briefing. On December 5, 2019, the court granted this motion and ordered parties to file regular status reports indicating, among other things, whether further litigation will be necessary.

Since that order, DHS has been filing regular status reports, and as of June 2020, the litigation is dormant as document production continues.

Veronica Portillo Heap - 10/04/2018
Bogyung Lim - 06/07/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Records Disclosure
Plaintiff Type
Public (for-profit) corporation
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Buzzfeed, Inc., an American internet media and news company.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Loevy & Loevy
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
None yet
Order Duration 2018 - n/a
Filed 06/25/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
D.D.C. 1:18-cv-1501
IM-DC-0048-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.D.C.
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-DC-0048-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Jackson, Ketanji Brown (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0048-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Schafer, Matthew (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0048-0001 | IM-DC-0048-9000
Topic, Matthew Vincent (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0048-0001 | IM-DC-0048-9000
Wayne, Merrick Jason (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0048-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hendry, Melanie Dyani (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0048-9000
Moustakas, John (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0048-9000

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