Acosta v. FBI, No. 12-1578, 2013 WL 5306699 (D.D.C. Sept. 23, 2013) (Boasberg, J.)

Date: 
Monday, September 23, 2013
Re: Request for records concerning the requester's criminal prosecution Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court finds that defendant's search was adequate.  The court rejects plaintiff's argument that defendant's search was "inadequate because Defendants have not laid out 'what specific reports and documents were uncovered, . . . which databases were searched,' or what other agencies may have responsive documents."  The court notes that "Plaintiff's claim is belied by Defendants' declarations, which explain precisely what documents were uncovered, which database was searched, which offices had responsive records, and why other offices were not searched."
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that "[a]s the documents here encompass transcripts of actual testimony before the grand jury, they clearly fall within the parameters of Exemption 3."  The court explains that, "[t]he relevant statute here—Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)—bars the disclosure of matters occurring before a grand jury."
  • Exemption 5, Attorney Work-Product Privilege:  The court "reviewed the two outstanding documents in camera and is satisfied that they comport with the exemption's requirements."  The court explains that, "[defendant] Document 3 is a prosecution memorandum clearly prepared in anticipation of Plaintiff's prosecution."  This document "lays out the prosecution's theory of the case along with the evidence it planned to adduce at trial," and is therefore, "exempt from production."  The court further explains that, "[defendant] Document 5 is a copy of the handwritten notes of an attorney."  It "constitutes the mental impressions of an attorney, prepared in anticipation of Plaintiff's case, and is thus clearly exempt from production."
  • Exemptions 6 and 7(C):  The court affirms defendant's withholding of the names of "'FBI Special Agents and support personnel,' 'third parties who provided information,' 'local law enforcement personnel,' 'third parties merely mentioned,' 'non-FBI federal government personnel,' and 'third parties who provided information to the FBI.'"  The court "finds each of these privacy interests substantial."  The court also rejects plaintiff's argument that "a significant public interest exists in the potential exoneration of 'a wrongfully convicted man,'" because it finds that "[t]his interest . . . is not a public one."  The court also finds that "[w]hile Plaintiff makes several references to government misconduct as a justification for disclosure . . . the 'requester must establish more than a bare suspicion in order to obtain disclosure.'"
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court holds that one document which was withheld pursuant to Exemption 7(E) "was properly withheld."  The court explains that "[t]he document contains information relating to [defendant's] access of internet message boards."  The court finds that, "[d]isclosure of this document, which contains undercover law-enforcement techniques and procedures not generally known to the public, could risk circumvention of the law."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court finds that based on its "review of the redacted documents and its in camera inspection, coupled with the [defendant] Declaration and the [defendant] Vaughn Index . . . no segregability problem exists here."  The court finds that defendant withheld "no material that could have been released on [the pages withheld in full]."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 3
Exemption 5
Exemption 6
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7E
Litigation Considerations
Segregability
Updated August 6, 2014