Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians v. USA

Feb 15: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, Case No. 06-13309. The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians (the Tribe) appeals from an order granting summary judgment in favor of the United States of America and U.S. EPA with respect to the Tribe’s claims pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Tribe contends that the district court erred by finding the EPA conducted an adequate search in response to the Tribe’s two FOIA requests (an initial request on February 18, 2004, and a supplemental request on June 3, 2004) for documents concerning the EPA’s Clean Water Act review of Florida’s amendments to the Everglades Forever Act (EFA) and the Phosphorus Rule for the Everglades Protection Area. The Tribe also challenges the district court’s determination, after an in camera review, that all withheld documents were properly designated by the EPA as privileged. After a review, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part, and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

In further explanation in its 66-page decision, the Appeals Court said, ". . . there was extraordinary discovery in this case, there was extraordinary substantiation of the privileges. . . the district court’s failure to enunciate specific findings of segregability for each of the withheld documents at the least requires remand so that the district court can make clear its findings as to whether any segregable portions of the withheld documents should have been disclosed. . . we vacate the district court’s grant of summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact exist regarding the reasonableness and adequacy of the EPA search for, and disclosure of, responsive documents to the Tribe’s 2004 FOIA request. We affirm, however the district court’s sustaining of the EPA’s assertion of privileges and consequent withholding of responsive documents under FOIA Exemption 5. We remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).