Pejouhesh v. USPS, No. 17-1684, 2019 WL 1359292 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2019) (Moss, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Pejouhesh v. USPS, No. 17-1684, 2019 WL 1359292 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2019) (Moss, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff's prosecution and conviction for aiding and abetting bank fraud, possession of stolen mail, and aggravated identity theft

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

  • Litigation Considerations:  "The Court will . . . grant the Postal Service's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's policy or practice claim."  "Even liberally construed, Plaintiff's complaint does not satisfy this standard, and Plaintiff has failed to otherwise explain how he has standing to seek injunctive or declaratory relief."  "With respect to any records Plaintiff sought that were not preserved, those records are gone, and neither an injunction nor a declaratory judgment can remedy that loss."  "Nor has Plaintiff offered any reason to believe that he will seek records from the Postal Inspection Service at some time in the future, that those records have not yet been destroyed, and that the Postal Inspection Service is likely to destroy those records in the absence of injunction."  "In short, Plaintiff has not alleged – or even suggested – that he is likely to suffer any future injury or that an injunction or declaratory judgment would accord him any relief."  "Under those circumstances, the Court lacks jurisdiction to consider what is, at best, a speculative claim."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "The Court . . . concludes that the Postal Service conducted adequate searches for the records Plaintiff sought."  The court explains that defendant's declarant explains the locations and methods of the search and "most importantly, [defendant's declarant] is familiar with 'the records and record systems employed by' the Postal Investigative Service, and she attests that the locations that were searched 'were the most likely, and only, place[s] where responsive records could be located.'"
     
  • Exemption 6:  "The Court . . . concludes that the Postal Inspection Service properly relied on Exemption 6 to redact victims' 'account numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and motor vehicle tag numbers.'"  The court finds that "[a]ccount and vehicle tag numbers, addresses, and telephone numbers are precisely the sort of 'bits of personal information . . . the release of which would "create[ ] a palpable threat to privacy."'"  "And while 'the court must "balance" the individual's right of privacy against the public interest in disclosure,' . . . that balancing is not difficult where, as here, Plaintiff has not provided any explanation regarding the public interest in disclosure, and no such interest is apparent."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  The court holds that "[defendant] has not . . . provided the Court sufficient information to permit it to evaluate the Postal Service's reliance on FOIA Exemptions 7(C) and 7(E)."  Regarding Exemption 7(C), the court finds that "[a]t least on the present record . . . the Court cannot assess how Exemption 7(C) applies to the 'third party statements' that the Postal Inspection Service elected to withhold."  "To be sure, to the extent those statements disclose the names or other identifying information about witnesses, that information likely falls within the scope of the exemption, and it is also possible that everything contained in those statements could be used to identify a witness."  "It is also possible, however, that substantial portions of those statements do not raise any plausible privacy concern."  "The problem is that nothing in [defendant's] declaration or otherwise in the record permits the Court to determine whether the Postal Inspection Service had sufficient basis to withhold substantial portions of the third-party statements."  "Nor can the Court assess whether the Postal Inspection Service properly invoked Exemption 7(E)."  The court explains that "the declaration fails to offer any basis to conclude that 'disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.'"  "Finally, the Postal Service has failed to carry its burden of showing that it released all reasonably segregable material."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
Declarations
District Court
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations
Vaughn Index
Updated April 11, 2019