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Blankeney v. FBI, No. 17-2288, 2019 WL 450678 (D.D.C. Feb. 5, 2019) (Howell, C. J.)


Blankeney v. FBI, No. 17-2288, 2019 WL 450678 (D.D.C. Feb. 5, 2019) (Howell, C. J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for Vaughn Index

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "EOUSA has adequately explained 'in reasonable detail the scope and method of the search conducted,' which 'suffice[s] to demonstrate compliance with the obligations imposed by the FOIA.'"  The court notes that defendant explained where it searched and the search terms used to conduct its search.
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege & Attorney Work-Product Privilege:  The court holds that "EOUSA appropriately relied on Exemption 5 to withhold 'attorney work-product' and records protected by the 'deliberative process privilege.'"  The court finds that "EOUSA's declarant averred that the information withheld under Exemption 5 includes 'draft pleadings and email communications' among 'the AUSAs who were assigned to' the plaintiff's criminal case, and 'attorneys from [CRT] who assisted in the investigation.'"  "Withholding of this material under Exemption 5 'protect[s] from disclosure the email communications among the AUSAs analyzing the facts and evidence . . . to determine what charges to bring against Plaintiff, which witnesses should be utilized by the government at each stage of the prosecution,' and 'the handling of' the plaintiff's 'appeal of his criminal conviction.'"  Additionally, the court finds that "EOUSA's Vaughn index also includes descriptions of, and indicates the applicable privilege for, each Exemption 5 record."
  • Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection:  The court holds that "EOUSA submitted a declaration and a Vaughn index, demonstrating that the agency properly applied Exemption 5 to withhold material, and, thus, an in camera review of the disputed records is not necessary."
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court holds that defendant appropriately used Exemption 7(C) "'to protect the names and identifying information relating to third parties' and to 'telephone numbers, government attorneys and government personnel involved in the investigation' of the plaintiff, as well as 'additional personal and confidential information.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that "EOUSA fully described the withheld materials and the applicable exemptions in both the Vaughn Index and a declaration."  "Specifically, EOUSA's declarant averred that '[d]uring the processing of [the plaintiff's] request, each page was individually examined line by-line . . . to identify non-exempt information which could be reasonably segregated and released,' and that EOUSA has provided the plaintiff with 'all non-exempt [records] responsive to his FOIA request.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  The court holds that "'the FBI is entitled to refuse to perform any additional work on the plaintiff's FOIA request because he ha[s] not paid' amounts due on previous releases, and he continues to ignore the FBI's requirement that he must prepay for any additional releases."  "The plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies, and he 'is not entitled to avoid his fee obligations by filing a lawsuit.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Attorney Work-Product Privilege
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated November 16, 2021