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Corley v. Sessions, No. 14-2157, 2017 WL 5593510 (D.D.C. Nov. 16, 2017) (Sullivan, J.)


Corley v. Sessions, No. 14-2157, 2017 WL 5593510 (D.D.C. Nov. 16, 2017) (Sullivan, J.)

Re: Request for "records concerning [plaintiff] and Sex Trafficking prosecutions"

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendants' renewed motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment and leave to take discovery

  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "The Court is now satisfied that EOUSA has released all reasonably segregable records containing third-party information and, as a result, will grant summary judgment to defendant on this issue."  "[T]he Court has carefully reviewed the supplemental Vaughn index and finds that it adequately describes the information contained in the pages plaintiff has listed and explains why such information is fully protected by the claimed exemption(s)."  The court explains that "[w]hat plaintiff fails to acknowledge is that the privacy exemption EOUSA applied to the third-party information was invoked in conjunction with other exemptions that covered the remaining information[.]"  Additionally, "[a]n agency may withhold complete records where 'the exempt portions are []inextricably intertwined with [non]exempt portions,' . . . and 'the excision of exempt information would impose significant costs on the agency and produce an edited document with little informational value[.]'"  "EOUSA's declarant has stated as much."

    However, "the Court cannot find from the supplemental Vaughn index's opaquely worded descriptions . . . that those documents satisfy the D.C. Circuit's "because of test" to warrant full protection as attorney work-product, and EOUSA's declaration provides no clarifying explanations."  "Simply put, the Court has no idea what information is contained in those documents and how it qualifies as attorney work-product."  "In addition, EOUSA has not identified the origin or author of [two other documents], thereby rendering the Court unable to assess whether either document satisfies the 'inter-agency or intra-agency' threshold requirement of exemption 5 and qualifies as attorney work-product."  "In the supplemental index's justification column for each of the foregoing documents, EOUSA states: 'Attorney Work Product – the privilege is intend to protect documents and other memoranda prepared by an attorney in contemplation of litigation."  "The information was prepared by law enforcement to be used by the prosecution, both of whom shared a common interest in bringing plaintiff to trial for engaging the crime of sex trafficking of children.'"  "But that language 'simply parrots elements of the work product doctrine,' . . . and 'conclusory assertions of privilege [do] not suffice to carry the Government’s burden of proof in defending FOIA cases[.]'"
  • Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal:  The court holds that "any challenge to the agency's processing of the request is rendered moot by its searches and subsequent release of responsive records."
  • Litigation Considerations, Discovery:  The court holds that "Plaintiff's motion to take discovery is premised on his speculative assertion of bad faith, supported only by his self-serving statements."  "Plaintiff does not identify what information he needs beyond the evidence that is already in the record."  "Not only has plaintiff adequately refuted defendant’s evidence but he has raised questions about some of the withholdings that the Court has found in part to be worthy of explanation."  "Therefore, plaintiff's motion for leave to take discovery will again be denied."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Discovery
Litigation Considerations, Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated December 8, 2021