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Pickard v. DOJ, No. 06-00185, 2014 WL 1868841 (N.D. Cal. May 7, 2014) (Breyer, J.)


Pickard v. DOJ, No. 06-00185, 2014 WL 1868841 (N.D. Cal. May 7, 2014) (Breyer, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning confidential informant

Disposition: Denying defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemptions 7(C) and 7(F):  The court finds that "the government's motion is denied without prejudice."  The court explains that "[t]he government's argument—that it is not arguing for a categorical exemption for all DEA informants' records, but only for one particular DEA informant's records–does not really relate to a type of record, like an email or a rap sheet."  Additionally, the court explains that "[t]he purpose of categorical exemption is to provide 'workable rules' for agencies in future cases."  "A holding that 'all records related to [the informant] are categorically exempt fails to provide a workable rule for future cases because it only pertains to this case."  "'All records relating to [the informant]' is not an appropriate categorical exemption."
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index / Declaration:  The court holds that "[t]he government must go back and produce an adequate Vaughn Index."  The court finds that "[t]he Vaughn Index in this case is conclusory and circular."  The court explains that "it provides neither the Court nor the Plaintiff with any useful information about the content of the documents or how the claimed exemptions apply."  Moreover, the court finds that "[t]he declaration in support of the Vaughn Index is no better."  The court explains that "[i]f Plaintiff or the Court wishes to do anything with such representations other than unquestioningly accept them, there is no way to do so."

However, "the Court cannot resolve this dispute at this time, and therefore denies Plaintiff's motion [for summary judgment] without prejudice."  The court explains that "[w]ithout context, the Court cannot know if releasing something as basic as [the informant's] name would compromise an important privacy interest, endanger any individual's (including [the informant's]) physical safety, or run afoul of one of the other claimed exemptions."

  • Exemption 7(E):  Although not ruling on the issue, the court notes that "it is hard to see how exemption 7(E) applies."  The court "note[s] that the government's objection to revealing [the informant's] NADDIS number seems to rely only on exemption 7(E)—that it 'would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law,' . . . and that such reliance is thus far not compelling."  The court explains that "Exemption 7(E) 'only exempts investigative techniques not generally known to the public,' . . . and the government has not demonstrated that the use of NADDIS numbers is unknown."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7(E)
Exemption 7(F)
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Updated February 3, 2022