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Pinson v. DOJ, No. 12-01872, 2016 WL 614364 (D.D.C. Feb. 16, 2016) (Contreras, J.)


Pinson v. DOJ, No. 12-01872, 2016 WL 614364 (D.D.C. Feb. 16, 2016) (Contreras, J.)

Re: Requests for e-mails and records concerning BOP, as well as records concerning European Court of Human Rights decision

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

  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  "The Court agrees that OIP conducted an adequate search for records in regards to . . . [plaintiff's] request for any correspondence or electronic messages generated after January 21, 2009 by the Attorney General, or staff within the Attorney General's office, addressed to or intended for the Director of BOP." Specifically, the court finds that "OIP conducted a reasonable search within the two hours allotted."  The court notes that "OIP has provided 'a reasonably detailed' declaration setting for the search terms and type of search performed."  "The Court finds that OIP's search was reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents within the allotted time."  Regarding the search conducted in response to plaintiff's request for records "relevant to [a] decision of the European Court of Human Rights," for similar reasons "the Court concludes that the search was adequate because it was reasonably designed to . . . produce the requested information and, thus, grants summary [judgment] in favor of defendant."  The court finds that "DOJ has provided a declaration from the OIP showing an organized and thorough search for the request at issue, and its memorandum canvasses the request in detail, explaining to whom the request was sent, the search terms used, and the specific database searched."  Regarding a search conducted in response to plaintiff's request for "'all information related to the selection of BOP’s Director Charles Samuels and Regional Director Paul Laird for those positions and any reports of deaths of inmates in federal custody during 2008-2011,'" "based on a declaration that properly sets forth details of the search terms, locations searched, and type of search performed by OIP, this Court finds that OIP conducted an adequate search in response to [plaintiff's] FOIA request that was reasonably calculated to uncover the relevant documents in its files."
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  The court finds that "[p]laintiff’s hearsay objection lacks merit."  The court relates that "[t]he only challenge [plaintiff] raises as to the adequacy of the search for this request is his argument that [defendant's] Declaration is not admissible because it contains hearsay."  "This argument is based on the claim that the declaration contains descriptions of searches conducted by individuals other than the declarant."  "However, the courts in this Circuit have made clear that declarations containing such information are acceptable in FOIA cases."
  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  Regarding a "withholding . . . [of a] private remark by the OAG employee concerning his assessment of another employee . . . because Plaintiff did not appeal this withholding, [the court finds that] the claim has not been exhausted and cannot be challenged here."
  • Exemption 6:  Regarding the withholding of "the name and identifying information of a third party who provided a letter of recommendation on behalf of an individual who was a candidate for the position of BOP Director[,]" "the Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to the redacted information pursuant to FOIA."  The court reject's defendant's argument that "because it revealed the recommender's employer and the substance of his recommendation, there is no public interest in revealing the recommender’s identity."  The court finds that "there would be great public interest in learning the identity of the person who made a recommendation directly to the Attorney General in order to influence the decision concerning who should be selected to fill such an influential position over such a powerful organization."  "The revelation of such information would be of significant interest to the public because it would reflect on what the government is up to."  Additionally, the court finds that "OIP does not identify how revealing this individual's identity (rather than the address) would result in a clearly unwarranted invasion of this person's personal privacy."


Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records
Updated January 24, 2022