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Agency Finds Over 1250 More Records for Snow Investigation, Seeks Extension of Time

The day prior to the court ordered deadline to produce records for Rojas v. FAA 5, the agency emailed for a three week extension of time. As part of that request, the agency asserted that it may be withholding documents as well. We opposed, and after several iterations, the language of the extension was finalized, and filed a few hours before the Court’s original deadline.

The extension of time only applies to one of the FOIA requests at issue.

Noteworthy is that the agency released 40 pages, of the many listed on the Vaughn Index, for the request they are requesting the extension for, despite there being many more documents listed in the Index. We are currently reviewing the production, but are also concerned as to why the FAA has not released records responsive to the other requests yet.

More coming soon….

The judge has yet to approve this extension of time.

28 – Extension M

4 Weeks Remain for FAA to Comply with Disclosure Court Order – Rojas v. FAA 5!

27 days remain for the FAA’s February 16th deadline to provide documents that were found to be improperly withheld in Rojas v. FAA #5.

Despite the government having shut down, the deadline currently still stands.

MINUTE ENTRY for proceedings held before Judge G Murray Snow: Status Conference held on 1/5/2018. The FAA shall provide all documents by 2/16/2018. If the FAA has the agreement of plaintiff, they may redact documents that do not pertain to the information in which plaintiff is interested, but those documents must be provided by 2/16/2018. Plaintiff has until 2/23/2018 to inform the Court whether or not this action can be dismissed, whether or not enforcement action needs to be taken against the FAA, or other relief.

FAA ORDERED to Release Shelton Snow Investigation Records, Rojas v. FAA #5 Documents, or risks “enforcement action”

Despite the Judge’s order denying in part the FAA’s Motion for Summary Judgment, the FAA decided to take a new approach and say that the order was only with respect to the “blanket” exemption claims and that it is awaiting approval internally to release documents, or claim new exemptions. At a status hearing today, Judge G. Murray Snow said no to that argument and cautioned FAA that it must comply with the order.

These documents pertain to the Shelton Snow investigation and the inquiry into the alleged cheating, along with the missing emails, and other things.

The Judge ordered FAA to provide the documents by 2/16/2018. We then have until 2/23/2018 to review, and inform the court of any remaining issues. The Judge also left the door open for enforcement action and sanctions against FAA for any failure to comply.

We look forward to receiving all the documents listed in the Vaughn Index of Records from FAA for the various requests.

MINUTE ENTRY for proceedings held before Judge G Murray Snow: Status Conference held on 1/5/2018. The FAA shall provide all documents by 2/16/2018. If the FAA has the agreement of plaintiff, they may redact documents that do not pertain to the information in which plaintiff is interested, but those documents must be provided by 2/16/2018. Plaintiff has until 2/23/2018 to inform the Court whether or not this action can be dismissed, whether or not enforcement action needs to be taken against the FAA, or other relief.

APPEARANCES: Michael Pearson for Plaintiff, who is also present. Paul Bullis for Defendants. (Court Reporter Charlotte Powers.) Hearing held 9:37 AM to 9:53 AM. This is a TEXT ENTRY ONLY. There is no PDF document associated with this entry. (KFZ) (Entered: 01/05/2018)

The parties agree that there are other issues (in addition to the release of records) that still need to be resolved, and will attempt to work on those over the next few weeks.

BREAKING – Judge Snow DENIES FAA Motion for Summary Judgment – Rojas v. FAA 5

Judge G. Murray Snow has denied in part, and granted in part, the FAA’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Rojas v. FAA 5. The FAA attempted to close out that lawsuit arguing that it had performed all it needed to do for the FOIA requests at issue.

The denied parts of the FAAs motion include the 1) EEO case information, 2) requests for searching Shelton Snow’s email, 3)  Shelton Snow investigative file following the Fox expose. 

Judge Snow’s background to the case stated, “The National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (“NBCFAE”) lobbied for certain aspects of the new hiring policy. As part of this change, the FAA no longer formally preferred students participating in specified college programs under the Qualified Applicant Register. This policy change negatively impacted Mr. Rojas’s application to work as an Air Traffic Controller.”

Judge Snow found FAA did not adequately justify its exemption claims, for example –

Notwithstanding the potential public interest in a government agency’s review of unfair hiring practices, the government did not sufficiently show that it could not disclose any information without violating privacy interests. The government claims that privacy interests compel nondisclosure, but the government did not explain why it withheld all documents, and it did not show that redactions could adequately protect any privacy interests. Therefore, the government did not meet its burden that a FOIA exemption warranted nondisclosure.

The FAA failed to comply with FOIA concerning the second subsection. The government claims that it withheld all responsive documents because Mr. Snow has a cognizable privacy interest that warrants nondisclosure of cheating allegations. However, the public has an interest in knowing information about hiring officials who unfairly support specific job applicants, especially for positions that maintain public safety. Considering these two competing interests in light of the strong presumption in favor of disclosure, Yonemoto, 686 F.3d at 693, the government’s response to Mr. Rojas’s request failed to meet its burden for summary judgment.

In its Motion for Summary Judgment, the FAA cursorily stated that Exemption 6 protects the privacy interests of individuals in the email. The FAA’s perfunctory response is inadequate, and the FAA fails to meet its burden to show that an exemption applies.

The Judge set a status hearing for early January, which we will find out what FAA intends to do. There will likely be a discussion on what the next steps are.

2017 1204 O re MSJ (3)