Dongkuk Int'l, Inc. v. DOJ, No. 16-01584, 2016 WL 4543995 (D.D.C. Aug. 31, 2016) (Mehta, J.)
Re: Request for verified copy of portions of Request for Assistance letter sent by Korean Ministry of Justice to DOJ pursuant to MLAT between United States and Republic of Korea
Disposition: Denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction
- Exemption 3: "The court concludes that the MLAT between the United States and the Republic of Korea qualifies as a 'statute' for purposes of Exemption 3 and that the RFA Letter is a 'particular type[ ] of matter[ ] to be withheld' under the MLAT." The court first finds that "[t]he text of the U.S.-Korea MLAT makes clear that it is a self-executing treaty" and, "upon ratification by the Senate, it became binding domestic law and thus equivalent to an act of the legislature." "The MLAT therefore qualifies a 'statute' for purposes of FOIA Exemption 3." The court then finds that "[t]he U.S.-Korea MLAT satisfies [Exemption 3's] criteria in that it 'refers to a particular type[ ] of matter[ ] to be withheld,' namely, requests for assistance." Additionally, the court finds that "[t]he RFA Letter at issue in this case is the very type of 'request' document that the United States must use its 'best efforts' to keep confidential pursuant to Article 5, paragraph 5."
- Waiver: "The court is not persuaded by Plaintiffs' contention that the limited disclosure made by the Ministry of Justice to the Korean courts regarding the RFA Letter's contents constitutes an official public acknowledgment of those contents, such that DOJ's invocation of Exemption 3 is deemed waived." The court explains that "[o]ur Court of Appeals has squarely stated that a 'foreign government [ ] cannot waive a federal agency's right to asset a FOIA exemption.'" Additionally, the court notes that "[o]nly a 'summary' of the RFA Letter, and not the actual letter, was disclosed to the Korean trial court."