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JCI Metal Products v. United States Dep't of the Navy

July 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court


This is a reverse-FOIA case, with Plaintiff JCI Metal Products ("JCI") seeking to prevent disclosure of certain information relating to its past contract with Defendant United States Department of the Navy ("Navy"). Currently before the Court are Plaintiff's and Defendant's cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. Having considered the parties' arguments, and for the reasons set forth herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.


I. Factual Background

On June 4, 2002, Fleet and Industrial Supply Centers-San Diego ("FISCSD"), a Navy command in San Diego, awarded Contract No. N00244-02-D-0026 to JCI. (Certified Administrative Record ("CAR"), at 64.) After an initial one-year term, the contract provided for four one-year options, with a maximum contract term of five years. (Id. at 166-68.) The option years were exercised and the contract expired in 2007. In February 2009, FISCSD received a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request from attorney Clinton D. Hubbard, seeking Contract No. N00244-02-D-0026 and related documents. (Id. at 2-3.) Because the requested documents contain JCI's line item prices, FISCSD informed JCI in writing of the FOIA request and provided an opportunity for JCI to establish that its prices are legally exempt from release. (Id. at 5.)

JCI responded with a letter from its counsel, Kevin Cauley, dated March 5, 2009. (Id. at 7-21.) JCI asserted that the unit prices for each contract line item ("CLIN") and the total price amount for each CLIN fell within Exemption 4 of the FOIA, which exempts from disclosure "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential." (Id. at 7.) According to JCI, the disclosure of these items would "significantly increase the probability that JCI's competitors would attempt to underbid it when the new contract for the services in Contract N00244-02-D-0026 is bid." (Id. at 8.) Moreover, the disclosure of these items would allow JCI's competitors to determine: (1) the structure of the pricing methods used by JCI; (2) JCI's bottom line prices; and (3) the overall bid strategy of JCI. (Id. at 8.) FISCSD's FOIA Officer, Sherri Dollick, responded with a letter dated March 6, 2009, pointing out that the arguments raised in Mr. Cauley's letter did not establish the likelihood of competitive harm necessary to justify withholding the contract. (Id. at 23-24.) Nonetheless, the FISCSD provided JCI with an opportunity to submit additional information by March 13, 2009. (Id.) Mr. Cauley responded with a letter dated March 13, 2009, reiterating why this information falls within Exemption 4. (Id. at 26-51.) After analyzing JCI's submissions, the FISCSD notified JCI that a final agency decision had been made to release the contract. (Id. at 174.) FISCSD also advised JCI of its right to take court action within 10 days. (Id.)

II. Procedural Background

On September 30, 2009, JCI filed the Complaint in this action and applied for a temporary restraining order to prevent release of the contract. Without admitting the merits of JCI's position, the Navy agreed to delay releasing the contract pending a final decision on the merits by this Court, and the Court entered an order to that effect on October 7, 2009. [See Doc. No. 7]. On January 25, 2010, the Navy filed with the Court a Certified Administrative Record ("CAR") in this matter. [Doc. No. 14]. On March 18, 2010, JCI filed its Supplementation to the Administrative Record ("SAR"). [Doc. No. 17]. The supplementation consists of a Declaration of Mark Withers and eight work orders allegedly relevant to the Navy Contract No. N00244-02-D-0026. The Court subsequently denied the Navy's attempt to strike JCI's supplementation to the CAR. [Doc. No. 26].

The parties then filed the present cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. After each motion was fully briefed, the Court took them under submission pursuant to the Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1).


Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings and materials demonstrate "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material issue of fact is a question a trier of fact must answer to determine the rights of the parties under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

The moving party bears "the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. To satisfy this burden, the movant must demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. Id. at 322. Where the moving party does not have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, it may carry its initial burden of production in one of two ways: "The moving party may produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's case, or, after suitable discovery, the moving party may show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element of its claim or defense to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000). To withstand a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must then show that there are genuine factual issues which can only be resolved by the trier of fact. Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736, 738 (9th Cir. 2000). The non-moving party may not rely on the pleadings alone, but must present specific facts creating a genuine issue of material fact through affidavits, depositions, or answers to interrogatories. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

The court must review the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Hernandez v. Spacelabs Med. Inc., 343 F.3d 1107, 1112 (9th Cir. 2003). To avoid summary judgment, the non-moving party need not produce evidence in a form that would necessarily be admissible at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. However, unsupported conjecture or conclusory statements are insufficient to defeat summary ...

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