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Bolze v. EOUSA, No. 17-2858, 2021 WL 5564633 (D.D.C. Nov. 29, 2021) (Pan, J.)


Bolze v. EOUSA, No. 17-2858, 2021 WL 5564633 (D.D.C. Nov. 29, 2021) (Pan, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff's arrest

Disposition:  Granting defendants' motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court relates that "[plaintiff] has not identified any basis to conclude that the searches were inadequate; and he has failed to present evidence to overcome the presumption of good faith afforded to agency declarations."  First, the court finds that "[the FBI's] declaration reflects that the FBI conducted an adequate search."  "At the outset, [the FBI's declarant] attests that he is knowledgeable about the search and the processing procedures that were undertaken; and that his declaration is based upon his personal knowledge and made in his official capacity."  "He then identifies and details the record systems and locations used for each of the searches, why the relevant information would be in those locations and systems, the search terms used, and the scope of the searches."  "The efforts described by [the FBI] Declaration were plainly adequate:  They not only were 'reasonably likely' to locate records responsive to [plaintiff's] request, but they did, in fact, locate all the relevant records."  Additionally, the court finds that "[plaintiff's] own search preferences cannot dictate the reasonableness of the scope of an agency's FOIA search."  For similar reasons, the court finds that "[t]he record also reflects an adequate search by the USAO-EDTN, which was the office that prosecuted [plaintiff's] criminal case . . . ."
  • Litigation Considerations; Exemption 6 & Exemption 7(C):  The court holds that "[b]ecause [plaintiff] has failed to present any evidence to generate a genuine dispute of material fact concerning the invocation of the relevant FOIA Exemptions, the Court need not rule on the sufficiency of Defendants' evidence with respect to the withholding of responsive material under Exemptions 6 or 7(C), or the segregability of those materials."
  • Attorney Fees:  "The Court preliminarily agrees that the filing of this litigation substantially caused Defendants to search for and release the requested records."  "But a plaintiff who 'substantially prevails' is only potentially 'eligible for attorney's fees [and litigation costs]; whether the plaintiff is actually entitled to a fee award is a separate inquiry that requires a court to consider a series of factors.'"  The court finds that plaintiff "fails to identify a public benefit."  "[Plaintiff's] interest in the documents and intended use of them are solely personal."  "Moreover, because [plaintiff] has not contested the FBI's claimed Exemptions, any request for litigation costs may be summarily denied."  "The remainder of [plaintiff's] claimed fees – for time spent on tasks such as 'reviewing release/withheld records,' . . . – are essentially attorney's fees."  "As a pro se plaintiff who is not an attorney, [plaintiff] is not eligible for attorney's fees . . . ."

    Separately, the court relates that "[t]he FBI has acknowledged that it committed an administrative error in failing to honor [plaintiff's] attempt to narrow his request; and the agency thus inadvertently provided some non-responsive material."  "The agency attempted to remedy this error on October 23, 2019, by providing refunds to two individuals who paid processing fees on [plaintiff's] behalf."  "In his reply, [plaintiff] does not present any evidence or argument that the reimbursements to the third parties were insufficient to address the FBI's error."  "The Court therefore concludes that there is no dispute of material fact regarding the propriety of the document processing fees."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Attorney Fees
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Updated January 10, 2022