Skip to main content

Carlborg v. Dep't of the Navy, No. 18-1881, 2020 WL 4583270 (D.D.C. Aug. 10, 2020) (Friedrich, J.)


Carlborg v. Dep't of the Navy, No. 18-1881, 2020 WL 4583270 (D.D.C. Aug. 10, 2020) (Friedrich, J.)

Re:  Requests for records concerning plaintiff's time in the Marine Corps and investigation that ultimately led to his involuntary discharge

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "[t]he Navy conducted an adequate search for the records specified in these requests."  The court finds that "the Navy's search for [plaintiff's] name in the systems [plaintiff] specified – and in other locations likely to yield responsive material – constituted 'a good faith effort to conduct a search for the requested records, using methods which can be reasonably expected to produce the information requested.'"  Additionally, the court relates that "[plaintiff] points to 'an unexplained 9-page gap in page numbering of emails that were produced' in response to one of the requests as a basis for finding the Navy's search inadequate."  "The Navy speculated that the gap was caused by an officer removing duplicate emails before sending the Navy's response to [plaintiff], . . . but the Navy's inability to definitively explain the origin of this gap does not render the methods it used unreasonable."  "This is especially true given that the Navy conducted another search after this gap was identified and found 'no records that ha[d] not already been released to' [plaintiff]."  Regarding a different request, for similar reasons, the court finds that "[b]y searching the emails [plaintiff] specified by his name, the Navy satisfied its burden to show it conducted a search that was reasonably calculated to produce the emails [plaintiff] sought about the handling of his disciplinary case."
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege:  "Because these emails were both “predecisional” and 'deliberative,' [the court holds that] the Navy properly invoked FOIA Exemption 5 to withhold them."  "Here, the emails withheld under Exemption 5 were predecisional because they relayed 'the opinions, recommendations, and assessments of the special agent about the investigation in anticipation of a court-martial or additional administrative action.'"  "And they are deliberative because they 'reflect the internal give and take among Navy personnel about that investigation.'"
  • Exemption 6:  The court holds that "[t]he Navy properly invoked FOIA Exemption 6 to redact the 'personal and identifying information' of 'DoD and non-DoD personnel' who were not general officers or in director-level positions."  "These individuals have more than a de minimis privacy interest in keeping their names and personal identifying information from being disclosed."  "And the general public's interest in disclosing the personal and identifying information of these individuals is minimal."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Updated November 10, 2021