Parker v. DOJ, No. 15-1070, 2016 WL 5939726 (D.D.C. Oct. 12, 2016) (Boasberg, J.)
Re: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
Disposition: Request for records concerning former Assistant U.S. Attorney
- Litigation Considerations, Summary Judgment: The court rejects plaintiff's argument "that because OPR did not file an Answer to his Complaint, but instead filed only a Motion for Summary Judgment, it is deemed to have admitted all matters alleged, thus entitling [plaintiff] to summary judgment as a matter of law." The court finds that "precedent cuts the other way" and "'it is standard practice in FOIA cases for the defendant to file a motion for summary judgment instead of filing a responsive pleading.'"
- Exemption 7(C): The court holds that "OPR . . . properly withheld the records under Exemption 7(C)." The court first notes that "[t]he parties agree that the records Plaintiff seeks here are likewise correctly considered records compiled for law-enforcement purposes." The court then finds that "public documents 'undoubtedly . . . diminish [[the former AUSA's]] interest in privacy: the public already knows who [she] is, what [she] was accused of,' and the sanctions incurred." "But further details pertinent to substantial privacy interests remain as yet undisclosed." These "include details about how [the former AUSA] misrepresented her status as an active bar member and about internal disciplinary actions considered or taken in response[,]" "the names of OPR non-attorney employees[,]" and "OPR's report of its investigation into [the former AUSA's] conduct [which included] [descriptions of] information relating to her work as an AUSA separate from the bar-membership issues, including evaluations by her supervisor, and other personal information relating to her work history." Therefore, the court concludes that "[the former AUSA] and the other named individuals retain substantial privacy interests in the withheld records." Regarding the public interest, "[t]he Court agrees that prosecutorial misconduct is 'an undeniably serious issue.'" "But the Court's in camera review of the specific records Plaintiff seeks confirms that none 'would reveal much, if anything, about systemic prosecutorial misconduct' related to the unauthorized practice of law or DOJ's systemic efforts to prevent, identify, and/or respond to misconduct, such that any public interest would outweigh the privacy interests of [the former AUSA] and the named third parties."
- Litigation Considerations, "Reasonable Segregable" Requirements: "The Court has reviewed in camera the partially withheld documents to determine whether they contain any material that can be reasonably segregated and disclosed 'without unwarrantably impinging upon anyone's privacy.'" "Having done so, the Court is satisfied that there are no segregability problems." "No additional portions of the partially redacted records need be released."
- Procedural Requirements, Consultations and Referrals: "The Court . . . will deny OPR's Motion as to [certain documents referred to] EOUSA[.]" The court holds that "[c]ontrary to [plaintiff's] position . . . a component need not necessarily follow up on or independently review the disclosure decision of the component, agency, or office to which it referred the records for decision." "Whether the referring agency retains a duty to act depends on whether the referral resulted in an improper withholding." "Plaintiff's second referral-related grievance – that OPR did not provide the legal bases for withholding responsive records referred to EOUSA – goes to that question." "Notably, OPR never argues that Plaintiff must sue EOUSA to obtain the required explanations, so the Court will assume that OPR retains responsibility here for the propriety of the withholdings." "Yet, as Plaintiff points out, OPR never provided a description of the specific legal bases for EOUSA's withholdings beyond the general citations to exemptions given in the form letter that accompanied EOUSA's production." "Because OPR 'does not assert that it has made any effort to ensure that' [plaintiff] received the explanations to which he is legally entitled . . . it failed to carry its burden."