JOHNSON, Circuit Judge:
We are asked to write what may be the final chapter in the controversy surrounding Bert Lance and the National Bank of
In 1977 the SEC and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) conducted an investigation into certain transactions among the NBG, the First National Bank of Calhoun (FNB) and Bert Lance. After completing the investigation, the two agencies sought and obtained injunctive relief against Lance and both banks.
Plaintiff brought suit in district court seeking the release of the records. The SEC responded to the complaint with a motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary judgment. The agency asserted that the records were germane to an investigation by the Special Counsel into the relationship between the NBG and Carter Warehouse and not subject to disclosure.
A few months after the district court's order, Bert Lance was tried and was either acquitted or granted a mistrial as to all criminal charges. The Justice Department terminated the investigation and returned the witness statements, transcripts and exhibits to the SEC. Noting that the Justice Department investigation had ceased, plaintiff moved the district court to revise the November 1979 decision and order the release of the documents. Plaintiff also filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking to obtain the documents and records not encompassed by the 1979 order.
The district court refused to revise the order. The court noted that the SEC had voluntarily processed the records and promised to release all witness statements, transcripts and exhibits that did not result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The district court concluded that the agency's actions rendered plaintiff's motion for revision moot. The district court did agree to review the SEC's decision to withhold certain documents under exemption 4 (trade secrets),
Plaintiff first contends that the SEC waived the right to invoke certain FOIA exemptions by failing to include them in the first motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary judgment filed by the agency. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c) requires a defendant to allege all affirmative defenses in a responsive pleading and the failure to do so will normally result in waiver. Jones v. Miles, 656 F.2d 103, 107 n.7 (5th Cir. 1981). Plaintiff asserts that the SEC's first motion for dismissal or summary judgment constituted the agency's "responsive pleading" and that by failing to raise exemptions 4, 5 and 7(C) in the motion, the SEC waived the defenses.
Although superficially attractive, plaintiff's argument suffers from a fatal flaw. Neither a motion to dismiss nor a motion for summary judgment constitutes responsive pleadings for purposes of the federal rules. See McGruder v. Phelps, 608 F.2d 1023, 1025 (5th Cir. 1979) (motion to dismiss not responsive pleading for purposes of Fed.R.Civ.P. 15); Hanraty v. Ostertag, 470 F.2d 1096, 1097 (10th Cir. 1972) (motion to dismiss not responsive pleading for purposes of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8); Miller v. American Export Lines, Inc., 313 F.2d 218 n.1 (2d Cir. 1963) (motion for summary judgment not responsive pleading for purposes of Fed.R.Civ.P. 15). The SEC, therefore, had no obligation to raise all applicable affirmative defenses in its motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the failure to include all relevant exemptions in the "non-responsive" motion did not result in waiver.
Plaintiff also seems to argue that the SEC waived certain FOIA exemptions by failing to file a timely answer to his complaint. The FOIA requires the Government to file an answer or "otherwise plead" to a complaint within 30 days. The SEC responded to plaintiff's complaint within 30 days by filing a motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary judgment. The agency delayed, however, over ten months before filing an answer.
The FOIA is, in some respects, broader than the federal rules. Unlike the federal rules, the FOIA authorizes a federal agency to "otherwise plead" in lieu of filing an answer. See Weber v. Coney, 642 F.2d 91, 93 (5th Cir. 1981) ("an `answer' is not the only response permitted under the FOIA."). The FOIA does not contain a definition of the phrase "otherwise plead." The legislative history, however, indicates that an agency may "otherwise plead" by filing a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment. H.R.Rep.No. 876, 93rd Cong., 2nd Sess., reprinted in U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News 6267, 6276 (1974) (response to complaint "need not necessarily be affirmative in nature; it may be a motion other than an answer."). Thus by filing a timely motion to dismiss, the SEC fulfilled its obligation under the FOIA to answer or "otherwise plead" to a complaint within 30 days.
Plaintiff next contests the district court's reliance on the mootness doctrine. Plaintiff sought review of the November 1979 order that exempted all witness statements, transcripts and exhibits from disclosure. The district court acknowledged that release of the documents would no longer interfere with an ongoing investigation. Nonetheless, the court noted that the SEC had agreed to process and disclose the documents and denied plaintiff's motion as moot.
The Supreme Court has recognized that an issue becomes moot when the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome. Murphy Fourth Judicial District of Nebraska v. Hunt, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 102 S.Ct. 1181, 1183, 71 L.Ed.2d 353 (1982). Once the SEC voluntarily processed the witness statements, transcripts and exhibits, plaintiff no longer had a legally cognizable interest in obtaining a revision of
In the instant case, plaintiff filed a motion to revise in order to obtain witness statements, transcripts and exhibits previously found exempt from disclosure as investigatory records. The SEC has, however, already processed the records and instructed plaintiff to make arrangements with the agency's FOIA office to view the documents.
Plaintiff next asserts that the district court improperly found certain documents exempt from disclosure. In reviewing a district court's determination under the FOIA, we must first determine whether the lower court had an adequate factual basis for its determination. Stephenson v. Internal Revenue Service, 629 F.2d 1140, 1144 (5th Cir. 1980). Assuming an adequate factual basis, we must ascertain whether the lower court's determination was clearly erroneous. Id.
Before considering plaintiff's contentions, we note the basic precepts behind the FOIA. Congress adopted the Act to encourage open disclosure of public information. Baldrige v. Shapiro, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 102 S.Ct. 1103, 1108, 71 L.Ed.2d 199 (1982); NLRB v. Robbins Tire & Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 220-21, 98 S.Ct. 2311, 2316, 57 L.Ed.2d 159 (1978). The FOIA attempts to balance the public's need for access to information with the Government's need, under some circumstances, for confidentiality. Weinberger v. Catholic Action, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 102 S.Ct. 197, 201, 70 L.Ed.2d 298, 304 (1981). Consequently, records and documents held by federal agencies are presumed subject to disclosure unless the agency can establish that
Plaintiff does not take issue with the district court's determination that the SEC properly withheld documents under exemption 4 (trade secrets) and exemption 7(C) (personal privacy).
Exemption 5 authorizes an agency to withhold "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters." 5 U.S.C.A. § 552(b)(5). The exemption has generally been held to encompass attorney work product and staff opinions/recommendations that are part of an agency's deliberative process. Federal Open Market Committee v. Merrill, 443 U.S. 340, 353, 99 S.Ct. 2800, 2808, 61 L.Ed.2d 587 (1979); McCorstin v. United States Dept. of Labor, supra, 630 F.2d at 245. The district court found the great majority of documents exempt as work product. The determination is amply supported by the record. Information provided in the index clearly demonstrates that the documents were prepared by agency attorneys or persons under the direction of the attorneys in anticipation of litigation. The fact that the index does not contain dates for all documents or fails to provide the name of each drafter does not render the index factually deficient. Under some circumstances, such information might be necessary to a court in determining the nature of the documents. In the instant case, however, the index contained sufficient other factual information to permit the district court to determine that the documents constituted work product. We therefore conclude that the court had a sufficient factual basis for the determination and further conclude that the determination was not clearly erroneous.
Nor do we agree with plaintiff's allegation that a number of withheld documents were final agency opinions and therefore subject to disclosure. See NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 148, 95 S.Ct. 1504, 1515, 44 L.Ed.2d 29 (1975) ("we hold ... that Exemption 5 does not apply to any document which falls within the meaning of the phrase `final opinion'"). The documents included drafts of complaints and indictments in various stages of development and assorted memoranda or lists containing agency analysis. None of the documents could be considered final decisions. Instead the documents were correctly characterized by the district court as either work product or deliberative. We also reject plaintiff's argument that the SEC waived the right to invoke exemption 5 by disclosing documents to other federal agencies. Exemption 5 explicitly applies to inter as well as intra-agency memoranda and letters. Thus an agency will not automatically waive the exemption by releasing
The final issue concerns the district court's refusal to award plaintiff attorneys' fees. The FOIA authorizes a court to award attorneys' fees if a plaintiff "substantially prevailed" in the lawsuit.
The record reveals that the SEC failed to release a large number of documents until after plaintiff initiated judicial proceedings. Nonetheless, such a factor does not conclusively establish that plaintiff substantially prevailed. Lovell v. Alderete, supra, 630 F.2d at 432. Instead, plaintiff must establish that the lawsuit provided the necessary impetus for disclosure. Plaintiff has not met this burden. The substantial majority of documents released by the SEC resulted not from the lawsuit but from the Justice Department's termination of the Bert Lance investigation and the agency's correct perception that the documents were no longer exempt as investigatory records.
For the reasons stated herein, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.
Plaintiff does not contest the SEC's assertion that the documents withheld under the 1979 order have all been processed. Nor does he claim on brief that the agency has now denied him access to any of the records.