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Clarke v. DOJ, No. 18-02192, 2023 WL 2536264 (D.D.C. Mar. 13, 2023) (Reyes, J.)


Clarke v. DOJ, No. 18-02192, 2023 WL 2536264 (D.D.C. Mar. 13, 2023) (Reyes, J.)

Re:  Request for grand jury records concerning plaintiff’s criminal case

Disposition:  Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  “Based on the declarations that EOUSA has submitted, the Court finds that EOUSA’s search was ‘reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.’”  “In response to Plaintiff’s FOIA request, the District’s FOIA Coordinator located the closed file associated with Plaintiff’s criminal case, where ‘Grand Jury records are regularly kept . . . during the normal course of business.’”  “A physical search of the file yielded two Grand Jury transcripts.”  “The FOIA Coordinator concluded that no additional responsive records could be located only after contacting the Records Department, the Docketing Department, the Assistant United States Attorneys assigned to Plaintiff’s criminal case, and the Grand Jury Coordinator, all to no avail.”  “EOUSA demonstrates that its searches were reasonably calculated to locate records responsive to Plaintiff's request.”

    Responding to plaintiff’s argument, the court finds that “[t]he fact that EOUSA did not uncover and produce the documents that Plaintiff thinks it should have is not a viable theory of liability and is insufficient to survive summary judgment without evidence that EOUSA’s search was insufficient or defective.”  “Plaintiff presents no such evidence.”  “At bottom, Plaintiff’s argument fails because ‘the adequacy of a FOIA search is generally determined not by the fruits of the search, but by the appropriateness of the methods used to carry out the search.’”  “Additional . . . records may exist, but Plaintiff fails to provide any evidentiary support (1) establishing that EOUSA . . . maintain[s] court records in the regular course of business or (2) identifying any obligation on EOUSA to maintain or obtain records originating from a separate branch of government.”
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that “EOUSA properly withheld grand jury transcripts responsive to Plaintiff’s request.”  “‘[R]equests for documents related to grand jury investigations implicate FOIA’s third exemption, because Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits government attorneys and others from “disclos[ing] a matter occurring before the grand jury.”’”  “While ‘[t]here is no per se rule against disclosure of any and all information which has reached the grand jury chambers,’ an agency may withhold grand jury material if its disclosure ‘would tend to reveal some secret aspect of the grand jury’s investigation.’”  “EOUSA’s search yielded two ‘grand jury transcripts related to the government’s investigation of [P]laintiff’s criminal acts’ including the evidence that USAO/NJ ‘presented . . . that ultimately resulted in the indictment and conviction of [P]laintiff on various counts of conspiracy to transport stolen vehicles.’”  “Releasing the transcripts, ‘risk[s] piercing [the grand jury’s] cloak of secrecy by revealing information contemplated by the determining body.’”
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 3
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Updated March 31, 2023