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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. DOJ, No. 11-754(GK), 2013 WL 2549680 (D.D.C. June 12, 2013) (Kessler, J)

Re: Records pertaining to DOJ investigation of U.S. Representative Don Young Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendants' motion for summary judgment; granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
  • Exemption 5/Attorney Work Product:  The court notes that the plaintiff "insists that the Government must identify the circumstances surrounding the initiation of the investigation into Young's conduct," yet "does not explain why the contextual information it seeks is necessary or relevant."  The court explains, "the relevant inquiry in analyzing an attorney work product claim . . . focuses on whether the documents in question were prepared in anticipation of litigation."  Through "detailed individual descriptions of each document" in the Vaughn index and the information provided in the declarations, the "Government has sufficiently demonstrated that the withheld documents were created in the course of the DOJ's investigation into Rep. Young's potentially illegal actions."   
  • Exemption 5/Deliberative Process Privilege:  The court concludes that certain e-mails are protected by the deliberative process privilege.  "It is clear that email exchanges between employees regarding how to respond to pending press inquiries are the types of discussions that agency employees are entitled to have without fear of disclosure."  Although the plaintiff "argues that Defendants have not provided enough context to allow the Court to evaluate whether the documents were appropriately withheld," the court determines that the defendants have "provided sufficient information for the Court to evaluate whether the deliberative process privilege applies."  "There is no case law which mandates that an agency must always provide the extremely detailed descriptive information that CREW requests in order to justify withholding documents under the deliberative process privilege."  The court states that "there is no indication that these emails contain the final decision not to prosecute Rep. Young or the reasons behind that decision."  Segregability:  "No factual summaries are at issue here, and there is no reason to believe that these email discussions contain 'purely factual material' that should be segregated and provided to Plaintiff." 
  • Exemption 7(C):  While the defendant argues "it is entitled to make individualized arguments as to why particular documents might be appropriately withheld under [Exemptions 6 and 7(C)]," the court finds that the defendant "failed to actually make those individualized arguments with respect to Rep. Young" and the defendant "cannot treat Rep. Young as merely a 'suspect' whose name happens to be mentioned in these records."  The court directs the defendant to "review the documents and portions of documents that have been withheld under Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and disclose such information, or justify more specifically why it should not do so considering the specific interests implicated."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 7(C)
Updated August 6, 2014