Johnson v. FBI, No. 14-1720, 2016 WL 2755584 (E.D. Pa. May 12, 2016) (Pratter, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning investigation of client of firm where plaintiff works as investigator
Disposition: Granting, with certain limitations, plaintiff's renewed motion for summary judgment; denying defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment
- Exemption 7(A): The court holds that "Exemption 7(A) is applicable to any previously undisclosed information in the FBI's investigative file." In court finds that "[w]hile [plaintiff] might be correct in her assertion that none of the FBI's articulated harms have occurred regarding the witnesses and evidence that have been part of the public domain since [the subject's] trial, such an assertion has no bearing on whether such harms might occur if previously undisclosed witnesses and evidence were to be revealed." "As was the case when the Court decided the parties' initial motions for summary judgment, 'the disclosure of previously undisclosed information could...reasonably lead to interference with enforcement proceedings.'"
- Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration: The court finds that "[u]ltimately, the FBI attempts to classify the documents responsive to [plaintiff's] FOIA request neatly into two categories – (1) documents that were disclosed during [the subject's] trial, which are part of the Discovery File and now in [plaintiff's] possession, or (2) documents that were not disclosed at [the subject's] trial, which are necessarily not part of the public record and are therefore validly withheld under the various claimed exemptions." "The Court, however, foresees a third category of documents – documents that were not disclosed at [the subject's] trial and were not included in the Discovery File, but have lost the 'connective tissue' between the document and the claimed exemptions due to the information that was disclosed through discovery and during [the subject's] trial." "Additionally, [the court finds that] the FBI has failed to provide more than conclusory statements regarding its burden to release all reasonably segregable nonexempt portions of the documents in its possession." "Because the FBI has not satisfied its burden of sustaining its action, the Court will deny the FBI's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment." "While the Court will grant [plaintiff's] Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court recognizes that certain documents responsive to [plaintiff's] FOIA request might very well contain previously undisclosed information and may be subject to various exemptions." "Consequently, the Court will limit disclosure of the requested documents to only [plaintiff's] counsel." "After reviewing the documents, counsel may propose a schedule to the Court for the disclosure of documents to others, including [plaintiff]." "The FBI will then have the opportunity to submit specific objections to the proposed release schedule."