Pinson v. DOJ, No. 12-1872, 2015 WL 1263359 (D.D.C. Mar. 19, 2015) (Contreras, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment
- Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies: "[The] Court finds that [plaintiff] has conceded that he failed to exhaust administrative remedies pertaining to [one of his] request[s] prior to seeking judicial relief, and the Court grants summary judgment to the DOJ as to that request." The court explains that "[plaintiff] abandoned [this] claim entirely." Additionally, "because [plaintiff] does not dispute either that he received the OIG's responses or that he failed to appeal them, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of the DOJ as to [three more requests] on the grounds that [plaintiff] failed to exhaust administrative remedies." The court explains that, although plaintiff "argues that he never received responses to the three requests at issue," "[plaintiff's] complaint . . . states that he did receive responses from the OIG as to each of the three requests in question."
- Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search: "The Court finds that [defendant's] declaration is sufficiently detailed as to Part One of [plaintiff's] request, and it demonstrates 'that the search method was reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.'" "[Defendant] has described with particularity the database she searched, why it was most likely to contain responsive records, and why [defendant] was unable to search the agency's audits and inspections database with the information that [plaintiff] provided." "[Defendant] further explained that [it] searched the appropriate database using the name that [plaintiff] supplied, and that [defendant's] search uncovered responsive documents." The court also finds that, "[a]lthough [plaintiff] correctly points out that [defendant] did not specify the exact date that [it] conducted the search or the amount of time the search took, that alone in not enough to render the declaration insufficiently detailed." Additionally, the court finds that "the fact that additional documents responsive to [plaintiff's] requests may exist, or that the agency's searches may have been imperfect, does not mean that the searches were inadequate." However, "the Court will deny Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to Part Two of [his request]." The court explains that "[w]hat [defendant] does not state . . . is how [it] could have reasonably expected a database indexed and searchable by the names of individuals to yield any results when searched not by a name, but by a court case number."
- Procedural Requirements, Responding to FOIA Requests: "The Court finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding the agency's failure to provide [plaintiff] with its response to his FOIA request." "The OIG admits that it has located documents responsive to [one of plaintiff's requests], and that [plaintiff] has yet to receive those documents." "And although the DOJ appears to believe that one attempt at mailing a response package to [plaintiff] satisfies the agency's obligations under FOIA, it has failed to produce the exhibit on which it relies to show that the mailing ever occurred."
- Exemption 7(C), Glomar: The court holds that "[w]ithout any evidence that [plaintiff] sent [a third party's] consent form to the OIG prior to its issuance of a Glomar response, let alone any evidence that the agency actually received the form prior to issuing its final response letter, [plaintiff] has failed to establish that the agency's issuance of a Glomar response to [one of plaintiff's requests] was improper." The court notes that "[plaintiff] does not dispute that if the OIG did in fact investigate [the third party], he is presumed to have a substantial interest in ensuring that the OIG keeps the fact of his investigation a secret." "Neither does he suggest that there is any public interest in the disclosure of such records that could outweigh [the third party's] privacy interest."
- Litigation Considerations: "The Court . . . deems conceded the DOJ's motion for summary judgment as to . . . six requests." The court explains that "[plaintiff] has not only failed to come forward with contradictory evidence, he has abandoned the claim entirely."
- Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index / Declaration: "[T]he Court finds that the OIG's Vaughn index is adequate" because "it states a 'brief description of the document' at issue, notes the number of pages in the document and the FOIA request to which it applies, identifies the exemptions asserted and provides a 'description of the withheld information.'"
- Exemption 6: The court holds that "Exemption 6 can . . . extend to the names of agency personnel." The court explains that "[t]he concern that agency employees would be harassed if their names were disclosed 'tilts the scale' in a case such as this, where the plaintiff has not asserted a significant public interest in the release of the information."