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KXTV, LLC v. USCIS, No. 19-00415, 2020 WL 1082779 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2020) (Mendez, J.)

Date

KXTV, LLC v. USCIS, No. 19-00415, 2020 WL 1082779 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2020) (Mendez, J.)

Re:  Request for immigration records concerning third party

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court finds that "it is undisputed that Defendant searched for responsive records in accordance with its standard procedures for processing FOIA requests."  "Plaintiff does not challenge Defendant's search for responsive documents."
     
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court holds that "the documents at issue are investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes."  The court finds that "Defendant and ICE are responsible for the administration and enforcement of federal laws relating to the immigration and naturalization of aliens and identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities at the nation's borders."  "[The subject's] A-File was put together by these law enforcement agencies and A-Files have routinely been found to 'meet [the Exemption 7] test because they are "compiled for adjudicative and enforcement purposes" within DHS's statutory authority.'"
     
  • Exemption 7(A):  The court holds that "Defendant invalidly claimed FOIA Exemption 7(A) to prevent the release of this information."  "[T]he Court must receive enough detail to make an independent assessment of Defendant's claim."  "The names of the documents, without much more, do not give the Court any insight as to why the release of these types of investigatory records would interfere with the ongoing case."  "That their disclosure would reveal law enforcement techniques and the status of specific actions being taken is vague and veers into the territory of 'boilerplate or conclusory statements.'"  However, the court finds that "because Exemptions 7(C) and 7(E) apply to all or portions of the documents that remain withheld, Defendant is not required to disclose the information protected by either of those exemptions."
     
  • Exemption 7(C):  "Defendant's motion is granted as to the information withheld under FOIA Exemption 7(C)."  The court relates that "Defendant has refused to release the personal information of third parties that appears throughout all the documents."  "Some of these individuals are private citizens."  "Others are government employees involved in [the subject's] case."  The court finds that "[i]nvestigatory records generated by law enforcement agencies often contain information about private citizens whose link to the official inquiry is tenuous."  "'There is special reason, therefore, to give protection to this intimate personal data, to which the public does not have a general right of access in the ordinary course.'"  "Likewise, '[l]aw enforcement personnel involved in a criminal investigation have a [ ] privacy interest under Exemption 7(C) in not having their identities disclosed.'"  Regarding the public interest, "[t]he Court declines to treat mere allegations against [the subject of the request] as clear evidence of governmental misconduct."  "Meanwhile, Plaintiff fails to explain how the information at issue is likely to advance that interest."  "Thus, Plaintiff has failed to make the requisite showings and the invasion of privacy that would result from releasing the third-party information is unwarranted."
     
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court holds that "Defendant's motion is granted as to the information withheld under FOIA Exemption 7(E)."  The court relates that "[defendant's] affidavits claimed the records revealed techniques that, if known, could enable criminals to educate themselves about methods used to locate and apprehend persons."  The court finds that "Defendant has met its burden."  "These documents are withheld to prevent potential violators from evading and exploiting United States immigration laws."  "This is sufficient justification for their continued withholding under Exemption 7(E)."  "Plaintiff's argument that these documents fall under the 'routine-technique exception' has no teeth."  "As long as the manner and circumstances of the techniques are not generally known, or the disclosure of additional details could reduce their effectiveness, Exemption 7(E) applies even where the identity of the techniques has been disclosed."
     
  • Exemption 7(F):  "Because the Court finds Exemption 7(C) applies to [the] information [withheld under Exemption 7(F)], it need not make a finding on Exemption 7(F)."
     
  • Exemption 6:  "Because the third-party information was properly withheld under Exemption 7(C), the Court need not make a finding on Exemption 6."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "The Court finds that, between the Vaughn Index and the four declarations, Defendant has justified not disclosing the few documents withheld in full under Exemptions 7(C) and 7(E)."  "Defendant withheld those documents in their entirety only where it 'determined that no further segregation . . . was possible without disclosing information that warrants protection under the law.'"
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(A)
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7(E)
Exemption 7(F)
Exemption 7, Threshold
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated April 14, 2020