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Higgs v. U.S. Park Police, No. 16-96, 2018 WL 3109600 (S.D. Ind. June 25, 2018) (Magnus-Stinson, C.J.)


Higgs v. U.S. Park Police, No. 16-96, 2018 WL 3109600 (S.D. Ind. June 25, 2018) (Magnus-Stinson, C.J.)

Re:  Request for records related to a triple homicide that occurred in 1996

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for summary judgment; granting in part and denying in part defendants motion for summary judgment.

  • Exemption 7(D):  The court holds that "the FBI properly withheld documents or portions of documents pursuant to Exemption 7(D)[,]" explaining that "[t]he fact that [the plaintiff] may know the identity of one or more of the confidential informants does not change the Court’s analysis."
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court acknowledges the plaintiff's argument that there is a "public interest is discovering prosecutorial misconduct" and further states that "his allegations concern the manner in which the [DOJ] carries out substantive law enforcement policy[,]" which the court finds to be a "significant public interest."  In analyzing the privacy interest, the court explains that the defendant's "declaration contains no analysis of whether the individuals whose privacy interests the Park Police now asserts are dead or alive."  Furthermore, "it does not appear that the number of individuals is sufficiently high such that it would be unduly onerous to require the Park Police to demonstrate that those individuals are alive."  The court holds that the "Park Police has not met its burden under Exemption 7(C) through either the Hardy declaration or the Vaughn Index[,]" and requires the release of documents previously withheld under Exemption 7(C) if they are not otherwise exempt. 
  • Exemption 7(E):  Rejecting application of Exemption 7(E) to NCIC reports that are approximately twenty years old, the court finds that "given the significant technological strides that have occurred in law enforcement techniques over the last two decades, the Court is skeptical that an FBI file from the late 1990s contains information that would shape the conduct of murderers operating in 2018."  Additionally, the court cites a "provision of the [FOIA’s] 1974 Conference Committee Report noting that ballistics tests are outside of Exemption 7(E)'s coverage[,]" and holds that "the Park Police has not met its burden with regard to the ballistics test at issue in this case."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7(D)
Exemption 7(E)
Updated January 31, 2020