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Flete-Garcia v. USMS, No. 18-2442, 2020 WL 1695127 (D.D.C. Apr. 7, 2020) (Moss, J.)


Flete-Garcia v. USMS, No. 18-2442, 2020 WL 1695127 (D.D.C. Apr. 7, 2020) (Moss, J.)

Re:  Requests for records concerning plaintiff's transportation while incarcerated

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: The court holds that "[defendant's] account of the searches conducted 'leaves substantial doubt as to [their] sufficiency,' . . . because it does not 'explain in reasonable detail the scope and method of the search[es]' . . . ."  "Simply naming databases and stating that they were 'searched' does not suffice."  The court finds that "[Defendant's] 'satisf[action]' with the searches, . . . moreover, cannot substitute for the Court's, nor does [defendant's] declaration provide the Court any detail regarding search terms or methodologies, possible custodians, or whether additional databases or files might contain the requested records."  "[Defendant's] sparse description of [its] contact with the USMS District Office in Massachusetts, moreover, does not fill this gap."  "[Defendant] does not indicate to whom [it] spoke or what [it] asked of that person."  "The fact that the office does not 'keep records indexed by names of prisoners' does not mean that the office does not possess the records Plaintiff sought, and the fact that any records regarding Plaintiff 'would just show accounting data used for reconciling the billing for use of the Massachusetts detention facility,' . . . does not foreclose the possibility that those billing records might show if, and when, Plaintiff was transported . . . ."
  • Litigation Considerations, Summary Judgment:  The court relates that "Plaintiff does not address the propriety of the redactions, apparently because he does not believe that the five pages the USMS released were, in any event, responsive to his requests."  "But the Court cannot deem a motion for summary judgment 'conceded' due to lack of opposition and must, instead, evaluate 'for itself whether the record and any undisputed material facts justify granting summary judgment.'"
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  "[T]he Court . . . concludes that the threshold requirement is satisfied."  The court finds that "'[t]he USMS is a law enforcement agency within the Department of Justice responsible for . . . the protection of Federal jurists, court officers, and other persons,' among other duties, . . . so the Court affords some deference to its assertion that the records in question were compiled for law enforcement purposes . . . ."  "More importantly, the redacted records were 'compiled by the USMS' in order to facilitate its own 'handling of federal detainees,' . . . which is undoubtedly a law enforcement purpose."
  • Exemption 7(C):  "The Court is . . . persuaded that the USMS permissibly redacted information that 'could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'"  The court relates that "USMS applied Exemption 7(C) 'to withhold the names and/or contact information of law enforcement personnel and prisoners unrelated to Plaintiff' . . . ."  The court finds that "[t]he disclosure of personal identifying information can 'create[ ] a palpable threat to privacy.'"  "'Low-level [government] personnel,' moreover, 'have at least some privacy interest in their names,' . . . and, indeed, 'the privacy interest of an individual in avoiding the unlimited disclosure of his or her name and address is significant' . . . ."  "On the other side of the balance, Plaintiff does not identify any public interest in release of the withheld information."  "'Where there is no asserted public interest, even the slightest privacy interest will prevent disclosure under Exemption 7(C)' . . . ."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "[B]ecause the five pages produced to Plaintiff were the only responsive documents located in the USMS's search, and the only information withheld is the personal information discussed above, the Court finds that the USMS 'has met its burden to disclose all reasonably segregable information' within those five pages."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7, Threshold
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Summary Judgment
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated May 12, 2020