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Jurdi v. United States, No. 18-1892, 2020 WL 5231492 (D.D.C. Sept. 2, 2020) (Contreras, J.)


Jurdi v. United States, No. 18-1892, 2020 WL 5231492 (D.D.C. Sept. 2, 2020) (Contreras, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning individual who testified at plaintiff's trial

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

  • Exemption 7(C):  Regarding the DEA's categorical denial in response to a request for certain specific records concerning an individual who testified at plaintiff's trial, the court holds that "[a]t first glance, the government's assertion of a categorical denial appears somewhat ambitious, because [the subject individual] publicly testified at [plaintiff's] trial and acknowledged his role as a cooperator."  However, "because [plaintiff's] request is tailored to files and reports referencing or related to [the subject individual], any responsive documents would necessarily introduce new information about the circumstances of [the subject individual's] involvement with law enforcement and work at least some marginal invasion into his still-extant privacy interests."  "Against these privacy interests, [plaintiff] has not identified any sufficient countervailing public interests favoring disclosure."  "[W]hen a requestor advances revealing government misconduct as the relevant public interest, he or she must 'produce evidence that would warrant a belief by a reasonable person that the alleged Government impropriety might have occurred.'"  "This [plaintiff] has failed to do."  Finally, regarding plaintiff's public acknowledgment argument, the court finds that "because the government has not 'officially acknowledged' or disclosed any of these exact records that [plaintiff] has requested, his argument must be rejected."
    Regarding the FBI's Glomar response used because "there is no indication that the FBI was involved in the referenced criminal case," the court holds that "in the absence of any cognizable public interest, the FBI’s Glomar response is justified under Exemption 7(C)."  First, the court holds that "[t]he FBI's declaration plausibly indicates that responsive records, if they were to exist, would have been compiled for law enforcement purposes, thus meeting Exemption 7's threshold requirement."  The court then finds that "[the subject individual's] publicly-acknowledged role as a government cooperator does admittedly reduce his privacy interest in not being associated with criminal activity."  "But any official acknowledgement that [the subject individual] also had a relationship with the FBI would reveal additional information about the extent of his cooperation with the government and inflict at least some further invasion on his privacy."  "Situations where the agency has officially confirmed the third-party's status as an informant are distinguishable, because here, there is no evidence of any official confirmation by the FBI specifically."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(C)
Updated October 16, 2020