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Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Trade Representative

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COURT INFORMATION:  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 10-35102; U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. C07-1979-RAJ

CLIENTS:  Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation Northwest

DEFENDANT:  Office of the United States Trade Representative

STATUS:  Complaint filed in U.S. District Court in December 2007; Judge Jones granted defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment on November 20, 2009; plaintiffs filed an appeal February 1, 2010.  Case argued and submitted for decision on November 2, 2010. On September 16, 2011, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion finding that the USTR had improperly limited its search for documents and remanding the case to District Court. The parties reached a settlement in February 2012.    

CASE DETAILS:  This lawsuit challenges the failure of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to timely and thoroughly respond to plaintiffs’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in the manner mandated by FOIA.  The FOIA request sought information from the USTR pertaining to the “meritorious initiatives” funded with $450 million of the proceeds of the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement. 

After the lawsuit was filed, USTR released 327 documents (1,423 pages) over the next 16 months.  Summary judgment briefing took place in late 2008 and early 2009.  In February, March and April 2009, USTR released additional previously withheld documents.  In March 2009, Judge Jones partially granted plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion to the extent it requested in camera review of 143 withheld documents.  Judge Jones granted defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment on November 20, 2009. 

Plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 1, 2010 and oral argument was heard November 2, 2010. On September 16, 2011, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion finding that the USTR had improperly limited its search for documents and remanding the case to District Court. The parties reached a settlement in February 2012 and USTR released an additional 25 previously withheld documents.