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Anthony v. BOP, No. 22-01558, 2024 WL 578956 (D.D.C. Feb. 13, 2024) (McFadden, J.)


Anthony v. BOP, No. 22-01558, 2024 WL 578956 (D.D.C. Feb. 13, 2024) (McFadden, J.)

Re:  Request for copies of complaints he submitted to prison officials as well as documents about correctional officer’s alleged misconduct

Disposition:  Granting defendant’s renewed motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 6; Exemption 7(C):  The court first analyzes BOP’s Glomar response.  The court relates that “BOP justifies its Glomar response under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C).”  The court first finds that “[plaintiff’s] FOIA request seeks ‘information compiled for law enforcement purposes.’”  “The request specifies ‘any and all documents’ relating to the correctional officer’s ‘misconduct in 2018.’”  “It also notes that the documents ‘should include but are not limited to the misconduct allegations made by inmates regarding sexual misconduct, introduction of contraband, and drug sales.’”  “Documents addressing these allegations touch on ‘illegal acts’ that could result in civil or criminal sanctions and thus fall within Exemption 7(C).”  “Still, the Court notes that [plaintiff’s] request sweeps broadly, and that in some cases, documents relating to misconduct investigations fall outside the scope of Exemption 7(C).”  “[Plaintiff] never objects to BOP’s application of Exemption 7(C) as the basis for its Glomar response.”  “Nor does he argue that his request includes documents that were not compiled for law enforcement purposes.”  “So the Court considers any objections to the application of Exemption 7(C) conceded.”  “Nevertheless, the Court concludes that even if Exemption 7(C) does not apply to all the requested documents, BOP’s Glomar response was proper because disclosure ‘would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy’ under Exemption 6.”  “Exposure of derogatory information relating to a guard in a prison setting could even raise safety and security issues.”  “Such a privacy interest arises not only with criminal investigations, but also with investigations of professional misconduct.”  “Since [plaintiff’s] FOIA request seeks information that would reveal whether a correctional officer has been investigated for potentially criminal misconduct, BOP has shown that disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under Exemption 7(C).”  “But even if some of [plaintiff’s] requested documents were not ‘compiled for law enforcement purposes,’ Exemption 6 still applies.”  “The disclosures sought here would give rise to similar privacy concerns.”  “As [defendant’s] Declaration explains, disclosure of documents related to an internal misconduct investigation could subject the correctional officer to ‘targeted attempts at compromise or manipulation in the conduct of their law enforcement duties.’”  “Release of internal investigation materials could further lead to ‘unwanted attention’ and ‘harassing inquiries’ that would ‘stigmatize and adversely affect’ the correctional officer under investigation.”  “The BOP’s stated privacy interest under Exemption 6 is therefore ‘substantial.’”  “Turn now to the public interest in disclosure, which the Court weighs for both exemptions.”  “[Plaintiff] barely articulates a public interest in disclosure.”  “He notes only briefly that disclosure could prevent ‘predation’ on individuals who may be exposed to misconduct.”  “As public interests go, this is thin gruel.”  “This is not to say that protecting federal inmates is a trivial matter.”  “But unsubstantiated allegations, like those here, have a greater privacy interest and reduced public interest compared to, say, ‘an in-depth investigation that exposed a pattern of abuses across numerous cases.’”  “And the ‘mere desire to review how an agency is doing its job, coupled with allegations that it is not, does not create a public interest sufficient to override the privacy interests protected by Exemption 7(C).’”  “Even under Exemption 6’s looser standard, the balance weighs against disclosure.”  “The difference between Exemptions 7(C) and 6 is ‘the magnitude of the public interest that is required to override the respective privacy interests protected by the exemptions.’”  “But [plaintiff’s] request does not further any substantial public interest.”  “So BOP’s privacy interest prevails under either analysis.”

    “Now [the court] consider[s] whether BOP properly applied Exemptions 6 and 7(C) in redacting the names of BOP personnel from two pages of responsive documents.”  “Exemption 7(C) does not apply here.”  “BOP’s declaration does not explain how these documents at issue – [plaintiff’s] own administrative complaints – fall within Exemption 7(C)’s scope.”  “Indeed, BOP does not argue that the administrative complaints here were ever ‘compiled for law enforcement purposes’ as the statute requires.”  “The Court nevertheless concludes that BOP properly redacted the names of prison personnel under Exemption 6 since disclosure would constitute ‘a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’”  “Since [plaintiff] provides no public interest in disclosing identifying information for BOP personnel, any privacy interest weighs against disclosure.”
  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  The court relates that, “[a]s an aside, BOP argues that [plaintiff] failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because he did not seek third-party authorization from the officer whose privacy interests are at stake.”  “But [the court finds that] BOP cites no case or regulation requiring a FOIA requester to seek written consent from every person whose privacy interests may be affected.”
  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  The court relates that “[plaintiff] argues that the Court should conduct in camera review of the withheld documents.”  “But when the agency meets its burden by providing detailed affidavits, ‘in camera review is neither necessary nor appropriate.’”  “BOP has met that burden here.”  “It has provided ‘specific information sufficient to place the documents within the exemption category,’ this ‘information is not contradicted in the record,’ and ‘there is no evidence in the record of agency bad faith.’”  “So in camera review is unnecessary.”
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Updated March 8, 2024