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Dutton v. DOJ, No. 16-1496, 2018 WL 1384123 (D.D.C. Mar. 19, 2018) (Jackson, J.)


Dutton v. DOJ, No. 16-1496, 2018 WL 1384123 (D.D.C. Mar. 19, 2018) (Jackson, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning one plaintiff

Disposition: Granting defendants' motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "the declarations provided by defendant demonstrate that the agencies conducted searches reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents."  First, "the Court finds that the search [conducted by the FBI] was 'reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.'"  The court finds that "[t]he [FBI] submitted a reasonably detailed set of affidavits that 'set[s] forth the search terms and the type of search performed, and aver[s] that all files likely to contain responsive materials . . . were searched.'"  "The information proffered by plaintiffs about how the searches should have been undertaken may be based on those declarants' previous experience at the agency, but in the end, they simply offer unsubstantiated opinion or speculation about what could or should have been done and therefore fail to rebut the good faith presumption afforded to the agency's affidavits."  Similarly, "[b]ecause the [OIG] declarations set forth a comprehensive description of how the agency maintains records, which search terms were used, and how the search was conducted, the Court finds that the [OIG] search was adequate."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court notes that, regarding defendants' use of Exemption 7(C), "Plaintiffs do not challenge whether defendant satisfied the law enforcement purpose threshold requirement, or whether defendant properly balanced the privacy interest against the public interest."  "Instead, plaintiffs center their argument on segregability."  The court relates that defendants' stated that information withheld in full "'if released in part, could still be used to identify the third party individual.'"  The court holds that "after examining the FBI's Vaughn index and the [defendant's] declarations, including the two ex parte, in camera declarations, the Court is satisfied that all reasonably segregable material has been released under Exemption 6 and 7(C)."
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court holds that "OIG's declarant offers a detailed factual basis for the exemption."  "She asserts that 'the document discusses specific use of an investigative step involving a request to another entity for confidential information relevant to the investigation,' and that '[t]he use of this investigative step is not publicly known, and disclosure of the withheld information concerning the details of this investigative step could hinder law enforcement investigations.'"  "The Court finds that this is sufficient to support the application of Exemption 7(E)[.]"  Additionally, "[b]ased on the Court's review of defendant's declarations, including its in camera, ex parte declarations, it finds that the defendant reasonably segregated and released all of the information it could without revealing exempt information."
  • Exemptions 3, 5, 7(A) & 7(D):  The court notes that "plaintiffs do not advance any arguments concerning the legitimacy of defendant's withholdings under Exemptions 3, 5, 7(A), and 7(D)."  The court finds that, "[u]pon review of the full record, including [defendants' declarations], as well as the Vaughn index, the Court finds that defendant has carried its legal burden by providing a 'relatively detailed justification' for its withholdings . . . under each exemption and there is no contradictory evidence in the record or evidence of bad faith."  "Moreover, based on the full review of the record, the Court also finds that defendant has met its segregability requirement."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 3
Exemption 5
Exemption 7(A)
Exemption 7(D)
Exemption 7(E)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated December 7, 2021