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Day, Jr. v. Dep't of State, No. 17-1418, 2020 WL 1078955 (D.D.C. Mar. 6, 2020) (Sullivan, J.)


Day, Jr. v. Dep't of State, No. 17-1418, 2020 WL 1078955 (D.D.C. Mar. 6, 2020) (Sullivan, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "Based on the State Department's supporting declaration, the Court concludes that the agency's searches for records responsive to plaintiff's FOIA request were reasonable."  The court relates that "[a]ccording to the declarant, three State Department components – the same components plaintiff specifies in his FOIA request – are locations where responsive records likely would be maintained."  The court also notes that "Plaintiff raises no objection to the scope or methods of the searches described . . . ."  Responding to plaintiff's argument, the court finds that "[t]he State Department does not run afoul of FOIA by failing to search for or produce records other than those related to [the instant] request."
  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege, Attorney Work-Product Privilege & Attorney-Client Privilege:  "Based on the Court's review, the State Department's supporting declaration and Vaughn Index adequately describe the information withheld under Exemption 5 and justify the agency's decision to withhold certain information under the deliberative process, attorney work product and/or attorney-client privileges."  Regarding the deliberative process privilege, the court holds that " [t]he declarant explains that certain information in the responsive records includes the 'candid views and advice of U.S. Government officials in their internal deliberations related to policy formation and administrative direction.'"  "According to the declarant, this document is pre-decisional and deliberative insofar as it precedes 'a final decision on [its] content.'"  "Release of this document, the declarant asserts, 'could reasonably be expected to chill the open and frank exchange of ideas and recommendations that occur when U.S. Government officials are developing a litigation strategy,' and 'would impede . . . the ability of . . . government officials to formulate and carry out executive branch programs by inhibiting candid internal discussion and the expression of recommendations and judgments regarding a preferred course of action.'"  Regarding the attorney work-product privilege, the court holds that "[a]ccording to the declarant, the State Department withholds attorney work-product including legal analyses of State Department and Justice Department attorneys, prosecutors' theory of the case and evaluation of evidence, as well as Justice Department 'attorneys' assessments of facts and issues pertaining to the requests for extradition pursuant to the Extradition Treaty.'"  "Its disclosure 'would inhibit essential investigative and decision making processes,' Stein Decl. ¶ 26, and disclose the attorneys' 'general strategy and tactical approach to investigating and prosecuting this type of case' . . . ."  Regarding the attorney-client privilege, the court finds that "the State Department withholds confidential communications between clients seeking and attorneys providing legal advice."
  • Exemption 6:  The court relates that "[t]he State Department withholds under Exemption 6 personally identifiable information including names, personal cell phone numbers, and email addresses of State Department officials, other United States government officials, and private individuals."  "Such information appears in correspondence" and "[t]he Court is satisfied that documents like the ones identified above qualify as 'similar files' for purposes of Exemption 6."  Additionally, "[o]n review of the declaration and Vaughn Index, and absent any meaningful objection by plaintiff, the Court concludes that the State Department's decision to withhold personally identifying information from the responsive records is proper."
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court relates that "State Department officials were working with attorneys and officials at the U.S. Department of Justice . . . to effect plaintiff's extradition and arrest."  The court finds that "[t]he State Department thus demonstrates that certain of the responsive records were compiled for law enforcement purposes and therefore fall within the scope of Exemption 7."
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court holds that "[t]he State Department withholds 'certain information about federal law enforcement personnel under Exemption 7(C).'"  The court finds that "the State Department's declarant adequately explains the law enforcement purpose of each document, describes the harm which could reasonably result from disclosure of this third-party information, and avers that no public interest outweighs the third parties' privacy interest."  "Plaintiff's unsupported assertions of 'heinous acts of torture,' . . . for which defendant is allegedly responsible, do not demonstrate a public interest of sufficient magnitude to outweigh the third parties' privacy interest."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court finds that "[o]n review of the State Department's supporting declaration and particularly its Vaughn Index, the Court concludes that the agency has released all reasonably segregable information."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Attorney-Client Privilege
Exemption 5, Attorney Work-Product Privilege
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7, Threshold
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated November 10, 2021