Jewett v. State, No. 11-cv-1852, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19887 (D.D.C. Feb. 14, 2013) (Wilkins, J.)

Date: 
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Re: First party request for records concerning plaintiff's arrest and extradition Disposition: Granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment and finding that Exemptions 6, 7C, 7D, and 7E were properly invoked and that defendant conducted a reasonable and adequate search
  • Procedural: The court rejects plaintiff's contention that he is entitled to receive an order because Defendants did not respond to him in a timely manner. The court notes that "FOIA required Defendants to respond to [plaintiff's] request within twenty business days and notify him of their determination, not to send all records within twenty days. . . . This is exactly what Defendants did." Noting that plaintiff has now "received all of the documents that he is entitled to," the court decides that no additional relief may be granted to him.
  • Adequacy of Search: The court holds that Defendants conducted a reasonable and adequate search for responsive records. It notes that the State Department's declaration "demonstrates that Defendants made a reasonable determination about where documents related to [plaintiff's] request might be located and conducted searches reasonably calculated to uncover [plaintiff's] requested documents." The court further notes that the fact that "documents that [plaintiff] references may have existed at one point . . . [but] were not produced does not make Defendants' search unreasonable." In addition, the court clarifies that "[a]n individual coordinating an agency's search is the most appropriate to provide a comprehensive affidavit," and that here the coordinating individual appropriately provided the declaration regarding plaintiff's request.
  • Exemption 6: The court determines that defendants properly withheld five documents in whole in or part pursuant to Exemption 6 to "prevent disclosure of 'names and other identifying personal information.'" The withheld information "includes law enforcement reports, a private communication between an individual and the U.S. Embassy in Belize seeking assistance with a family emergency, and a photocopy of a 'certificate of Live Birth." Noting that the information withheld was "only narrow personal information and not information relating to the operation or activities of the federal government," the court upholds the use of Exemption 6.
  • Exemption 7(C): The court finds that Exemption 7(C) was properly used to withhold "names and identifying information of individuals other than [plaintiff] himself . . . [as well as] names and telephone numbers of government employees, law enforcement officers, and third parties." Since plaintiff did not present "compelling evidence that this information must be released for a significant public interest," the court finds that defendants and USMS properly withheld this information. Likewise, DEA properly withheld information "about law enforcement personnel that 'were, and possibly still are, in positions of access to information regarding official law enforcement investigations.'" Citing concerns about harassment of these officials, the court notes that plaintiff again has failed to provide "a reason that this information must be released for a significant public interest" and concludes that DEA properly withheld this information pursuant to Exemption 7(C).
  • Exemption 7(D): The court finds that "Defendants and USMS properly used Exemption 7(D) to protect the identity of a confidential source." The court finds that it was reasonable to infer confidentiality "[g]iven that the investigative information identified [plaintiff] as being armed and dangerous and having a criminal history involving weapons charges." Citing "the sensitive nature of the information and the danger to the sources that could result from disclosure," the court concludes that Exemption 7(D) was properly applied.
  • Exemption 7(E): The court treats FBI's and DEA's use of Exemption 7(E) as conceded because plaintiff offered no rebuttal to their reliance on this exemption.
  • Segregability: The court examines the declarations of the four agencies involved in the litigation and determines that all reasonably segregable information has been released. The court notes that "Defendants and USMS discuss and attest to the agencies' review for segregable information in all documents withheld in whole or in part" and that "[t]he FBI and DEA offer similar information in the Supplemental Motion."
  • Fees: The court rejects plaintiff's request for fees because he has not "substantially prevailed," and because as "a pro se litigant, he is not entitled to attorney's fees."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 6
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7D
Exemption 7E
Fees and Fee Waiver
Procedural
Segregability
Updated August 6, 2014