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Neuman v. U.S., No. 13-0719, 2014 WL 4922584 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2014) (Jackson, J.)


Neuman v. U.S., No. 13-0719, 2014 WL 4922584 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2014) (Jackson, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff's criminal conviction

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 6:"As a result of the various deficiencies described, this Court concludes that it does not have sufficient information to rule on the propriety of Defendants' reliance on Exemption 7(C), and will order that Defendants provide, for in camera review, copies of the presumably small number of disputed documents that contain Exemption 7(C) withholdings, in both their redacted and unredacted form."  The court finds that defendant's "contention is purely conclusory; the materials that Defendants submit in support of their summary judgment motion do not even speak to the privacy interests at stake, much less establish that releasing the information would jeopardize any such interests."  The court finds that "it is entirely unclear what sort of information each document contains even in the broadest terms."  Moreover, the court finds that "there is some reason to question whether Defendants' Exemption 7(C) redactions are entirely appropriate."  "Based on what little information the record here contains, Defendants may not be able to rely on the Exemption 7(C) privacy interest argument with respect to at least one individual whose name has purportedly been redacted because, according to Plaintiff, that individual's name appears in at least one of the redacted documents provided to him, perhaps as a result of an administrative oversight."

  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index / Declaration:  The court holds that "the Vaughn index presents a sort of wholesale description of the documents and redactions with respect to the entire production, without connecting each exemption to each redaction, and it thereby fails to provide any means for identifying or distinguishing between any of the redactions contained in the responsive documents."  The court finds that "a Vaughn index should 'provide ' a relatively detailed justification, specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and correlating those claims with the particular part of a withheld document to which they apply[.]''"  "[W]ith respect to the instant dispute, this Court has not been provided with either a detailed description of the documents at issue or a copy of the redacted materials."

  • Exemption 7(E):The court finds that "[i]t is entirely possible that Defendants' boilerplate Vaughn index and blanket references to Exemptions 7(C), 7(E), and 7(F) have led to confusion regarding precisely what information has been withheld."  "In any event, the kinds of information that Defendants say has been redacted under Exemption 7(E)—which Plaintiff asserts that he is not requesting—is precisely the type of technical information that Exemption 7(E) protects."  "Therefore, to the extent that such information has been redacted from the contested documents (and, again, Defendants' recitation of the same generalized description for each document prevents this Court from being able to identify any specific instances in which Exemption 7(E) was invoked), there is no genuine dispute that Exemption 7(E) applies."  The court relates that "[d]efendants state that they have used this exemption to withhold 'law enforcement database codes, case numbers, and numeric references.'"

  • Discretionary Disclosure and Waiver, Waiver:  In response to plaintiff's "argument that the redacted information has already entered the public domain and is therefore non-exemptible", the court holds that "[u]nfortunately for Plaintiff, with respect to reliance on the public domain exception to an otherwise applicable FOIA exemption, 'constitutionally compelled disclosure to a single party simply does not enter the public domain.'"  The court relates that "[p]laintiff claims that he already obtained" the information that he sought due to "trial[ ]related discovery obligations."

Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(E)
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure
Updated January 26, 2022