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Cunningham v. DOJ, No. 13-1115, 2014 WL 1491175 (D.D.C. Apr. 16, 2014) (Collyer, J.)


Cunningham v. DOJ, No. 13-1115, 2014 WL 1491175 (D.D.C. Apr. 16, 2014) (Collyer, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning entry and search of plaintiff's residence

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index / Declaration:  The court "notes that DOJ has not filed a traditional itemized Vaughn index."  However, the court finds that "the Declarations, taken together, are 'sufficiently specific, detailed, and separable to satisfy [D]efendants' burden under Vaughn because the declaration[s] provide[ ] 'a reasonable basis to evaluate [each] claim of privilege.''"
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court "finds that the searches FBI and OVC conducted were reasonably calculated to discover the documents that [plaintiff] had requested."  The court relates that "FBI twice searched for responsive records in [its central records system], once before [plaintiff] filed the instant litigation and once after."  The court further explains that "[a]t the direction of OJP, OVC searched for responsive records via its shared hard drive even though it does not maintain records pertaining to confidential informants."  The court also finds that "[plaintiff's] bald assertions that FBI and OVC are hiding records are insufficient to overcome the presumption of good faith that FBI and OVC have established through their declarations."
  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  The court "finds that OJP's rationale for not conducting a search is sufficient."  The court explains that "[a] search would have been futile as OJP does not maintain any records concerning law enforcement activity, and by extension, confidential informants."
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court "grant[s] summary judgment as to the Requests that EOUSA and the Marshals Service received."  The court first finds that "EOUSA and the Marshals Service reasonably construed [plaintiff's] FOIA Requests as a demand for records not about himself vis-à-vis the confidential informant, but rather, for specific information about the confidential informant."  The court holds that "[t]he latter type of information, however, is exempt from disclosure."  The court finds that "[plaintiff's] personal interest in records concerning the confidential [informant] is not a cognizable public interest for purposes of the FOIA Exemption 7(C) analysis, and does not overcome the privacy interests of the individual who cooperated with law enforcement."  The court "finds that any search by EOUSA and the Marshals Service for records relating to [plaintiff's] FOIA Requests would have been pointless, as any responsive record would be exempt from disclosure under Exemption 7(C)." 
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records
Updated February 3, 2022