Laverpool v. Department of Housing and Urban Development

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA KEITH LAVERPOOL, Plaintiff, v. Civil Action No. 18-284 (JEB) DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, Defendant. MEMORANDUM OPINION Plaintiff Keith Laverpool brought this pro se action under the Freedom of Information Act requesting documents related to the foreclosure of his Georgia residence. In now seeking summary judgment, the Government contends that it has conducted an adequate search and released all retrieved documents in full. The Court concurs. I. Background The underlying factual background here is undisputed. Laverpool submitted essentially identical FOIA requests on July 13, 2015, and May 23, 2017, to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. See Compl., Exhs. A, B. Both sought five categories of material: (1) anything related to a specific Federal Housing Administration file number concerning a property at 1580 Smithson Court, Lithonia, Georgia; (2) proof that Plaintiff canceled his FHA insurance; (3) proof that the lender did so; (4) any request for a foreclosure sale of the property; and (5) loan documents relating to the property. Id. A search uncovered 144 pages, all of which were ultimately released in full. See ECF No. 6-1 (Declaration of Michael German), ¶¶ 5-6. 1 Laverpool nonetheless initiated the instant suit on February 12, 2018, and HUD now moves for summary judgment. II. Legal Standard Summary judgment may be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact is one that would change the outcome of the litigation. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (“Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”). In the event of conflicting evidence on a material issue, the Court is to construe the conflicting evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Sample v. Bureau of Prisons, 466 F.3d 1086, 1087 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Factual assertions in the moving party’s affidavits or declarations may be accepted as true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits, declarations, or documentary evidence to the contrary. Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1992). FOIA cases typically and appropriately are decided on motions for summary judgment. See Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Border Patrol, 623 F. Supp. 2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2009); Bigwood v. U.S. Agency for Int’l Dev., 484 F. Supp. 2d 68, 73 (D.D.C. 2007). In FOIA cases, the agency bears the ultimate burden of proof. See DOJ v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 142 n.3 (1989). The Court may grant summary judgment based solely on information provided in an agency’s affidavits or declarations when they describe “the documents and the justifications for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail, demonstrate that the information withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the ...

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