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Dorsey v. EOUSA, No. 12-534, 2015 WL 1283053 (D.D.C. Mar. 19, 2015) (Sullivan, J.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dorsey v. EOUSA, No. 12-534, 2015 WL 1283053 (D.D.C. Mar. 19, 2015) (Sullivan, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff

Disposition: Granting defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court holds that "both [the FBI and the DEA] demonstrate that the referred records fall within the scope of Exemption 7."  The court relates that "[t]he FBI's declarant states that 'the FBI assisted the Pickens County Sheriff's Office, South Carolina, in its investigation of plaintiff for alleged drug trafficking in crack/cocaine,' and that the relevant FBI records were compiled for this law enforcement purpose."  "The DEA's declarant explains that the records referred by the EOUSA 'were compiled during a criminal law enforcement investigation of the plaintiff and several third-parties' and 'are contained in investigative case files.'"
  • Exemption 7(C):  "The Court . . . treats as conceded defendant's motion for summary judgment with respect to Exemptions 6, 7(C) and 7(F)."  First, regarding the FBI, "[t]he Court finds that the relevant information properly is withheld under Exemption 7(C) alone, and it does not consider whether Exemption 6 applies to the same information."  "Similarly, where the DEA withholds information . . . [t]he Court concludes that the relevant information properly is withheld under either Exemption 7(C) or Exemption 7(D), and does not consider whether Exemption 7(F) applies independently to the same information."  The court then explains that "[plaintiff's] argument actually pertains to segregability rather than the agencies' reliance on the exemptions themselves."  The court relates that defendants' withheld "'the names and identifying information of third parties who were merely mentioned in the criminal investigative files containing information responsive to plaintiff's request.'"
  • Exemption 7(D):  "The Court concludes that the DEA properly withheld under Exemption 7(D) the identity of and information provided by a coded informant under an express assurance of confidentiality and the identities of and information provided by individuals involved in drug trafficking activities with plaintiff and his associates under an implied assurance of confidentiality."  Regarding express confidentiality, the court takes note of defendant's statements that "a coded informant has 'a continuing cooperative association with DEA'" and "is 'expressly assured confidentiality in [his or her identity] and the information [he or she] provide[s] to DEA.'"  Regarding implied confidentiality, the court also takes note of defendant's statement that "DEA 'has ... found that violence is inherent in the trafficking of controlled substances.'"
  • Exemption 7(E):  "The Court concludes that the DEA properly has withheld G–DEP codes and NADDIS numbers under Exemption 7(E)."  The court finds that, "[i]n short, disclosure of a G–DEP code," which is a code "assigned when a case file is opened, [which] 'indicate[s] the classification of the violator(s), the types and amount of suspected drugs involved, the priority of the investigation and the suspected location and scope of criminal activity,'" "''would ... thwart [DEA's] investigative and law enforcement efforts.''"  Similarly, the court finds that, "'[b]ecause of the manner in which [it is] assigned and ... used, release of [a NADDIS number],'" "a 'multi-digit number[ ] assigned to [a] drug violator[ ] and suspected drug violator[ ],' or to an entity of investigative interest to the DEA," "could allow [a] violator[ ] to avoid apprehension, and could place law enforcement personnel in danger, since the details of many details of a DEA investigation would be disclosed' along with the NADDIS number."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "[F]rom the Court's review of the supporting declarations, the DEA's Vaughn Index, and copies of the relevant FBI records, defendant demonstrates that all reasonably segregable material has been released from the records referred by the EOUSA."
  • Attorney Fees:  The court finds that "[i]t is apparent that plaintiff is not entitled to fees and costs."  "As a pro se plaintiff who is not an attorney, plaintiff is not eligible for attorney fees."  "He neither identifies a public benefit derived from this case nor explains the nature of his interest in the requested information."  "Lastly, the EOUSA, the FBI and the DEA adequately justify their decisions to withhold information under the claimed exemptions, and no other factor warrants an award of fees and costs to plaintiff."
Attorney Fees
District Court
Exemption 7
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7D
Exemption 7E
Litigation Considerations
Updated June 18, 2015