Paxson v. DOJ, No. 13-00597, 2014 WL 1921323 (D.D.C. May 14, 2014) (Howell, J.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Paxson v. DOJ, No. 13-00597, 2014 WL 1921323 (D.D.C. May 14, 2014) (Howell, J.)

Re: Request for search warrant executed at plaintiff's residence

Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  The court "concludes that 'there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact,' . . . regarding the adequacy of the defendants' search for responsive records in response to the plaintiff's FOIA request."  The court rejects plaintiff's "challenge[] [of] the adequacy of the defendants' search because no responsive documents were found despite 'the fact that the [p]laintiff is convicted and currently incarcerated proves that at some point, presumably, a search warrant did in fact exist.'"  The court finds that "[t]he mere fact that an agency's search failed to uncover a document that should or did exist is simply not enough to establish an inadequate search."  Instead, the court notes that "'[t]he adequacy of a FOIA search is generally determined not by the fruits of the search but by the appropriateness of the methods used to carry out the search.'"  The court finds that "[i]n this case, the FBI communicated with the plaintiff to obtain information that would help facilitate an accurate search and then conducted a broad automated search of the CRS using variations of the plaintiff's name and other personally identifiable information."  Moreover, the court finds that "[defendant] followed up with a second search for responsive records, which was sufficiently thorough and broad to uncover non-responsive records pertaining to the plaintiff, which records were disclosed."

Additionally, the court holds that "to the extent that plaintiff is claiming that ICE's record systems should have been searched, those systems are not within the defendants' control."  Moreover, the court finds that "[e]ven if [Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE")] had some involvement in the investigation of the plaintiff, this does not undermine the adequacy of the search undertaken by the defendants."  Therefore, the court holds that "plaintiff must submit a FOIA request to ICE should he wish to obtain records he believes are maintained by that agency."

District Court
Updated October 6, 2014