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Dixon v. DOJ, No. 16-1010, 2017 WL 3638179 (D.D.C. Aug. 23, 2017) (Chutkan, J.)


Dixon v. DOJ, No. 16-1010, 2017 WL 3638179 (D.D.C. Aug. 23, 2017) (Chutkan, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning FBI's bullet lead analysis

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, Proper FOIA Requests & Procedural Requirements; Searching for Responsive Records:  "The court . . . concurs with the FBI's assessment that the [portion] of Plaintiff's FOIA request [concerning "who 'used the bullet evidence at trial' to gain conviction, specifically of those charged with cases where [compositional bullet lead analysis] was used, and later lead to reversal"] does not reasonably describe the records requested."  "Furthermore, a substantive response to [this request] would require that FBI staff locate letters or memoranda from prosecutors' offices throughout the country, identify each criminal matter for which the FBI conducted comparative bullet lead analysis, and determine the cases resulting in a conviction which subsequently was reversed[.]"  "Where, as here, an agency's response to a FOIA request calls for 'an unreasonably burdensome search,' . . . the agency need not honor the request."
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "The court concludes that the FBI conducted a search reasonably calculated to uncover responsive records."  The court finds that "[defendant's] Declaration explains the agency's recordkeeping systems and the method and scope of its search[.]"  "The declaration enjoys a presumption of good faith."  "Plaintiff offers no evidence to overcome the presumption by, for example, showing that the FBI 'failed to search particular offices or files where the document might well have been found' or 'ignored indications in documents found in its initial search that there were additional responsive documents elsewhere.'"  Responding to plaintiff's arguments, the court also finds that "[a]n agency's search is judged on the basis of its methods and scope, not the results."
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court holds that "the FBI makes its threshold showing that the records responsive to Plaintiff's FOIA request were compiled for law enforcement purposes within the scope of Exemption 7[]" because "[defendant's] Declaration explains that '[t]he FBI compiled the records pertaining to [compositional bullet lead analysis] pursuant to its assistance to law enforcement,' namely its assistance 'to local law enforcement in its investigation of violent crimes[.]'"
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court finds that "[p]laintiff's opposition does not address the claimed exemption[]."  "He does not argue that the third parties have no privacy interests."  "Nor does he assert a public interest of such magnitude as to outweigh the third parties' privacy interests."  "Based on the court's review of [defendant's] Declaration and copies of the redacted documents themselves, Defendant properly has withheld third party information under Exemption 7(C)."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "The court has reviewed [defendant's] Declaration and copies of the redacted documents, and finds that the FBI has released all reasonably segregable information."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7, Threshold
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Procedural Requirements, Proper FOIA Requests
Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records
Updated December 13, 2021