On December 6, 2021, National Public Radio, Inc. and Sydney Lupkin (collectively, “NPR” or “Plaintiffs”), represented by Courtney Turco DeThomas of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, filed a civil right lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS” or “Defendant”), seeking declaratory reliefs and costs, among other reliefs, for the Defendant’s alleged violation of the Freedom of Information Act. This case was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia with Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly presiding.
In their complaint, the Plaintiffs alleged that, “NPR brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, et seq., to obtain records from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”) related to the government’s efforts to manage the development and distribution of vaccines for COVID-19. Defendant HHS, through its component, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (“BARDA”), has been responsible for procuring medicines and vaccines for COVID-19 during the pandemic. NPR’s FOIA requests (the “Requests”) seek the weekly reports generated by BARDA’s COVID-19 Incident Management Team (“IMT”), which contain factual information about the status of the pandemic and the government’s response.”
The Plaintiffs further alleged that, “On October 15, 2020, NPR submitted a FOIA request to HHS for the COVID-19 Incident Management Team (“IMT”) Weekly Reports generated by its component, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (“BARDA”)1 for the time period of September 1, 2020 to October 15, 2020. Although HHS acknowledged receipt of NPR’s Request on October 28, 2020, and noted the Request was eligible for expedited processing, it did not provide a final response until April 21, 2021, six months later (the “Response”). In its Response, HHS said that to date, BARDA had located 47 pages of responsive records; HHS determined all 47 pages were to be withheld under Exemptions (b)(4) (the exemption for trade secrets and privileged commercial or financial information) and (b)(5) (the deliberative process privilege) of the FOIA.”
The Plaintiffs also alleged that, “On March 26, 2021, NPR submitted a second FOIA request, this time seeking BARDA’s IMT reports produced during the time period from November 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. On March 26, 2021, HHS acknowledged NPR’s second FOIA request and assigned it the tracking number 2021-00832-FOIA-OS. To date, NPR has heard nothing further from HHS regarding the second FOIA request. By failing to issue an initial determination on the second Request within 20 business days, HHS has violated the FOIA and NPR is deemed to have exhausted its administrated remedies with respect to the request. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C)(i).”
The only claim for relief laid down by the Plaintiffs is for the alleged violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
In their prayer for relief, the Plaintiffs requested the Court for an order to immediately process NPR’s March 26, 2021 FOIA request and disclose all non-exempt documents immediately to Plaintiffs and to issue a declaration that NPR is entitled to immediate processing and disclosure of the requested records along with costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees and any other relief the Court deems just and proper.
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Pending - Other Pending
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, INC.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Courtney Turco DeThomas
Attorney at DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE LLP
1301 K Street, Nwsuite 500 East
Washington, DC 20005
Civil Cover Sheet
Summons as to HHS
Summons as to HHS FOIA Officer
Summons as to DOJ
Summons as to USAO
(#2) LCvR 26.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by SYDNEY LUPKIN, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, INC. (DeThomas, Courtney) (Entered: 12/06/2021)
(#3) ORDER ESTABLISHING PROCEDURES FOR CASES ASSIGNED TO JUDGE COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 12/9/21. (DM) (Entered: 12/09/2021)
Notice and Consent
Docket(#4) SUMMONS (4) Issued Electronically as to UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (Attachments: #1 Notice and Consent)(adh, ) (Entered: 12/09/2021)Read MoreRead Less
Docket(#3) ORDER ESTABLISHING PROCEDURES FOR CASES ASSIGNED TO JUDGE COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY. Signed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on 12/9/21. (DM) (Entered: 12/09/2021)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCase Assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. (zsb) (Entered: 12/08/2021)Read MoreRead Less
Docket(#2) LCvR 26.1 CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE of Corporate Affiliations and Financial Interests by SYDNEY LUPKIN, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, INC. (DeThomas, Courtney) (Entered: 12/06/2021)Read MoreRead Less
Docket(#1) COMPLAINT for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief for Violation of the Freedom of Information Act against UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ( Filing fee $ 402 receipt number ADCDC-8909552) filed by NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, INC., SYDNEY LUPKIN. (Attachments: #1 Exhibit A, #2 Exhibit B, #3 Exhibit C, #4 Exhibit D, #5 Exhibit E, #6 Civil Cover Sheet, #7 Summons as to HHS, #8 Summons as to HHS FOIA Officer, #9 Summons as to DOJ, #10 Summons as to USAO)(DeThomas, Courtney) (Entered: 12/06/2021)Read MoreRead Less
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