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Howard v. U.S., No. 17-2158, 2020 WL 435420 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Chutkan, J.)


Howard v. U.S., No. 17-2158, 2020 WL 435420 (D.D.C. Jan. 28, 2020) (Chutkan, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff's criminal case

Disposition:  Granting defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "EOUSA demonstrates that its searches for responsive records, particularly by retrieving files from [the Federal Records Center] and by sending office-wide emails, were reasonable under the circumstances of this case."  The court relates that "[defendant's declarant] personally conducted searches for records responsive to Plaintiff's FOIA request in the case management system known as LIONS."  "Using Plaintiff's name and criminal case number as search terms, [defendant's declarant] located a copy of Plaintiff's plea agreement . . . and his criminal case file, . . . all of which [defendant's declarant] forwarded to EOUSA for processing . . . ."  "Her office-wide email messages yielded even more potentially responsive documents, namely the forfeiture file . . . and records in the AUSA's possession."  Responding to plaintiff's argument that certain records were missing, the court finds that "'[t]he proper inquiry is not whether there might exist additional documents possibly responsive to a request, but whether the agency conducted a search reasonably calculated to uncover relevant documents.'"
  • Exemptions 6 & 7(C):  "The court concludes that EOUSA's decision to redact the foreperson's signatures from the indictments was proper."  The court finds that "[t]he foreperson has a cognizable privacy interest which Plaintiff has not overcome by showing a public interest of such magnitude it overrides the foreperson's privacy interest."  "Furthermore, release of the foreperson's signatures does nothing to advance the public's understanding of EOUSA or its operations."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "The Court finds that EOUSA has released all reasonably segregable information."  The court holds that "EOUSA's supporting declaration and Vaughn Index show that the only information withheld from the responsive records is the foreperson's signature on an indictment and superseding indictment."  The court finds that "the Vaughn Index clearly identifies the responsive records, demonstrates that the indictment and superseding indictment were compiled for law enforcement purposes, and explains EOUSA's decision to withhold the foreperson's signatures because his or her privacy interest outweighs any public interest in disclosure."
Court Decision Topic(s)
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Updated March 9, 2020