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Western Values Project v. U.S. Department of Justice

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20124
Nos. 17-cv-1671 (CRC), (D.C. Cir., 07/18/2018)

The D.C. Circuit granted in part and denied in part an environmental group's motion for summary judgment challenging DOJ's "Glomar response" refusing to confirm or deny the existence of the records requested. The group argued that the agency was not permitted to give this response to the group's FOIA request seeking two legal opinions previously issued by the agency on the president's ability to shrink and eliminate national monuments. The court agreed, concluding that there was no case law providing authority for the agency to invoke the Glomar response. The agency argued that divulging whether the records existed would reveal information protected by attorney-client privilege, presidential communications privilege, and deliberative process privilege. But the court disagreed, concluding that the existence of a responsive record here would show only that the Office of Legal Counsel engaged in some deliberation and thus would not necessarily disclose any information protected by these privileges. The group also challenged the agency's response to a request for a report on the president's authority to change monument designations, but the court agreed with the agency's finding that no such records existed. The court therefore granted in part and denied in part the group's motion for summary judgment, and ordered the agency to submit a description of the types of documents that are responsive to the group's FOIA request.