Muchnick v. DHS, No. 15-3060, 2016 WL 6473076 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2016) (Breyer, J.)

Date: 
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Muchnick v. DHS, No. 15-3060, 2016 WL 6473076 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2016) (Breyer, J.)

Re: Request for immigration information concerning former Irish Olympic swim team coach

Disposition: Issuing tentative order granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment, but declining to issue actual order until parties cannot reach resolution

  • Exemption 7, Threshold: The court holds that "there can be no doubt that DHS compiled [the swim team coach's] A-File for legitimate law enforcement and adjudicative purposes." "Exemption 7(C) is in play."
     
  • Exemption 7(C): "The Court is prepared to order DHS to disclose substantive information contained in the A-File about [the swim team coach's] alleged crimes, decisions about immigration benefits he sought, and the dates any documents containing such information were created." The court finds that "DHS may not withhold under Exemption 6 or 7(C) portions of documents merely reciting criminal allegations against [the swim team coach]." "[The swim team coach] has 'no privacy interests' in preventing disclosure of the widely known allegations swirling around him." "And without a privacy interest, there can be no invasion of personal privacy, let alone an unwarranted one." Also, the court finds that "although the information [plaintiff] seeks 'is tied solely to one individual,' . . . much of it sheds light on multiple decisions by multiple DHS personnel." "It details what they knew about [the swim team coach's] past and when they knew it." "Those details shed light on DHS's performance of its statutory duties and most certainly lets citizens know 'what their government is up to.'" However, "[t]hat said, the public does not have easy access to information about [the swim team coach's] past addresses, salary history, and – most relevant here – immigration decisions made by DHS." "[The swim team coach] retains a privacy interest in such information."
     
  • Exemption 7(E): The court holds that "DHS has properly redacted documents that reveal the databases USCIS uses, 'coded information,' 'biometric checks,' and other technical information." "Those are law enforcement 'techniques' under Exemption 7(E)." However, the court also finds that "[s]o long as DHS redacts how it obtained information about [the swim team coach], disclosing what if [sic] found out would not disclose a law enforcement technique, procedure, or guideline." "That is all the more true given that the allegations here are no secret."
Topic: 
District Court
Exemption 7
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7E
Updated February 14, 2017