Michael v. DOJ, No. 17-0197, 2018 WL 4637358 (D.D.C. Sept. 27, 2018) (Jackson, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff and his criminal case
Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for discovery
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: "[T]he Court finds that defendant's searches [were] reasonable under the circumstances." The court holds that "Defendant's declarations are sufficient to establish that [defendant] conducted an appropriate and reasonable search." "[Defendant] explains the locations and systems used to conduct the search, why the relevant information would be found in those systems, and the scope of the search." "He further describes the relevant electronic databases and how files are generally retrieved."
- Exemption 3: "[T]he Court concludes that the ATF properly withheld the Firearms Trace Summary pursuant to Exemption (b)(3)." "[T]he Court is persuaded . . . that 'the disclosure prohibitions set forth by Congress in the 2005 and 2008 appropriations bills are still effective prospectively and beyond those fiscal years as a permanent prohibition, until such time as Congress expresses the intent to repeal or modify them . . . Congress's uninterrupted use of this language in appropriations bills after 2009 supports the conclusion that Congress did not intend for the judiciary to depart from this long–standing position.'" "[T]he Court finds that the Firearms Trace Summary withheld by ATF is contained in and derived from the contents of the Firearms Trace System Database referenced in Public Law 112-55."
- Exemption 7, Threshold: The court finds that "[b]oth [defendants] have averred that all of the responsive records withheld pursuant to Exemption 7 were compiled for law enforcement purposes." "Defendant has therefore met this threshold burden, and the Court concludes that the relevant responsive ATF and FBI records were compiled for law enforcement purposes."
- Exemptions 6 & 7(C): The court holds that "Defendant has shown that the ATF and the FBI withheld information properly within the ambit of both Exemptions." First, "the Court agrees that disclosure of personal information of law enforcement personnel may hinder the ability to conduct ongoing investigations, may lead to unwarranted harassment, and may otherwise cause embarrassment and constitute the invasion of privacy that is contemplated by the Exemptions." Second, the court finds that "[t]his Circuit has also consistently held that Exemption 7(C) protects the privacy interests of all persons mentioned in law enforcement records, including investigators, suspects, witnesses and informants . . . and it has determined that such third-party information is 'categorically exempt' from disclosure under Exemption 7(C), in the absence of an overriding public interest in its disclosure." "Plaintiff demonstrates no such public interest here with respect to either the law enforcement personnel or the third-parties mentioned in responsive records."
- Exemption 7(F): The court holds that "arresting agents and under-cover informants who were involved in plaintiff's investigation and prosecution . . . fall squarely within the category of individuals who warrant protection under Exemption 7(F)."
- Procedural Requirements: The court holds that "[t]he supporting declarations [defendant's] demonstrate that defendant properly withheld sealed documents from disclosure."
- Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements: The court relates that "the agency declarants aver that they have reviewed the responsive documents, and that all non-exempt and segregable information has been produced," and holds that "[t]hese representations are sufficient."
- Litigation Considerations, Discovery: "[The] Court has found that the declarations submitted by defendant are sufficient to meet the summary judgment standard, and defendant has averred that all releasable transcripts, or portions of transcripts, have been provided with appropriate redaction." "So, plaintiff's motion will be denied as moot."