Crisman v. DOJ, No. 12-1871, 2018 WL 4473508 (D.D.C. Sept. 18, 2018) (Chutkan, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendants' First Motion for Summary Judgment and Second Motion for Summary Judgment and to Dismiss
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: Plaintiff argues that the FBI failed to produce six documents that were 'clearly referenced' in the FBI's initial production and which she requested on appeal." The court finds that, "[h]owever, 'mere reference to other files does not establish the existence of documents that are relevant to [a] FOIA request.'" "Plaintiff's suggestion that the six records exist and are relevant to her FOIA request is speculative and does not undermine the reasonableness of the FBI’s search." Additionally, "plaintiff's argument that the six cross-referenced documents were 'clear and certain' indications of the existence of additional documents that the FBI could not 'in good faith ignore,' does not convince the court otherwise." "None of the cases on which plaintiff relies for this argument hold that cross-references in a responsive document qualify as 'clear and certain' leads, requiring agencies to conduct additional searches." The court holds that, "[i]f that were the case, an agency responding to FOIA requests might be forced to examine virtually every document in its files, following an interminable trail of cross-referenced documents like a chain letter winding its way through the mail . . . FOIA clearly does not impose this burden upon federal agencies."
- Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege: The "FBI . . . states that the withheld information 'is deliberative as it reflects the internal discussion between FBI personnel regarding opinions and proposed recommendations in the handling of plaintiff's FOIPA requests." "[The FBI] further states that the redacted 'information is predecisional because the FBI evaluated preliminary opinions and analysis made by FBI personnel which eventually resulted in its response to plaintiff's FOIPA request." The court finds that, "[FBI's] generalized, conclusory statements do not aid the court in determining whether the redacted information provides an 'opinion' or 'recommendation' regarding plaintiff's FOIA request, and therefore do not adequately demonstrate that the deliberative process privilege applies in this case." "Indeed, the Declaration does nothing more than recite the legal standards of the deliberative process privilege, and therefore cannot justify summary judgment with respect to the FBI's withholdings under Exemption (b)(5)."