University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice NS-DC-0147
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-01854 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) National Security
Case Summary
This case is related to the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse's coverage of the Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. For more information on litigation to disclose the warrants that inspired this case, please see ... read more >
This case is related to the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse's coverage of the Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. For more information on litigation to disclose the warrants that inspired this case, please see this link. For a summary of the warrants and information on ongoing efforts by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to protect the confidential information in them, see this link.
The FISA requires the government to obtain a warrant from the FISC before it may conduct any domestic electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information. The warrant applications are made ex parte and must include a sworn statement by a federal officer of the facts and circumstances relied upon to justify the government's belief that the target of surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Once a FISC judge receives a warrant application, the judge can order approval of the surveillance only if the judge finds that there is probable cause to believe that the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Because the orders only authorize surveillance up to 90 days, the government must file an application for an extension that meets the same requirements as the initial warrant application and obtain a renewal order from the FISC for continued surveillance. For the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse collection of FISA matters, see our special collection.

On August 7, 2018, Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning nonprofit specializing in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation to expose government mismanagement, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under FOIA (5 U.S.C. § 552) against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking records surrounding surveillance of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. In a separate case, the FISC released an opinion (available in this Clearinghouse as NS-DC-0127) flagging this case as one that could lead to lawful release of information in the Carter Page FISA warrants. The case was assigned to Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

The complaint stated that the plaintiff initially submitted its FOIA request with the DOJ on May 29, 2018, and that as of the date of the complaint, the DOJ had not provided any responsive information to the request. The plaintiff sought information from three offices within the DOJ: the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the office of a particular former Associate Deputy Attorney General, and the Office of the Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. It was looking for any information these offices had pertaining to communications and background information on Fusion GPS, a commercial research and intelligence firm, and various sources publicly disclosed as the basis for the "Steele Dossier," the primary document the DOJ used to pursue FISA surveillance of Trump 2016 campaign advisor Carter Page.

After the complaint was filed, representatives from the plaintiff organization and the DOJ met to discuss a schedule for releasing relevant, non-exempt records under FOIA. In an October 19, 2018 status report, the parties agreed to produce documents on a six-month timeframe, with more updates to come as needed. As investigation commenced, more responsive documents were found that necessitated other searches, and this, combined with the government shutdown in late 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic, delayed completion of this document request. As of the most recent status report, filed on December 11, 2020, the parties anticipate that the DOJ will be able to estimate a date for final document production in early 2021.

The case and document production is still ongoing; Judicial Watch has not yet contested any of the DOJ's withholdings.

Ellen Aldin - 12/21/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Confidentiality
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Terrorism/Post 9-11 issues
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning nonprofit specializing in FOIA litigation
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Document/information produced
Source of Relief Settlement
Filed 08/07/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing NS-DC-0126 : FISA Court Matters relating to disclosure of Carter Page surveillance records: Four FISC cases [FISC Misc. 18-01, Misc. 18-02, Misc. 18-03, and Misc. 19-01] (FISC)
NS-DC-0127 : In re Carter W. Page: A U.S. Person [FISA dockets 16-1182, 17-52, 17-375, 17-679] (FISC)
NS-DC-0138 : In re Accuracy Concerns Regarding FBI Matters Submitted to the FISC (FISC)
NS-NY-0024 : N.Y. Times Co. v. United States DOJ (S.D.N.Y.)
NS-DC-0131 : Judicial Watch, Inc. v. United States DOJ (D.D.C.)
NS-DC-0143 : Page v. U.S. Department of Justice (D.D.C.)
NS-DC-0144 : Page v. Comey (D.D.C.)
NS-DC-0146 : James Madison Project v. U.S. Department of Justice (D.D.C.)
Court Docket(s)
D.D.C.
12/21/2020
1:18-cv-01854-ABJ
NS-DC-0147-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.D.C.
08/07/2018
Complaint [ECF# 1]
NS-DC-0147-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
10/19/2018
Joint Status Report (Second) [ECF# 10/19/2018]
NS-DC-0147-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
12/11/2020
Joint Status Report [ECF# 35]
NS-DC-0147-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Jackson, Amy Berman (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0147-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cotca, Ramona Raula (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0147-0001 | NS-DC-0147-0002 | NS-DC-0147-0003 | NS-DC-0147-9000
Orfanedes, Paul J (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0147-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Clark, Jeffrey Bossert (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0147-0001
Gerardi, Michael J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0147-0001 | NS-DC-0147-0002 | NS-DC-0147-9000
Readler, Chad Andrew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0147-0002
Shapiro, Elizabeth J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0147-0001 | NS-DC-0147-0002

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