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Pinson v. DOJ, No. 12-1872, 2018 WL 2336103 (D.D.C. May 23, 2018) (Contreras, J.)

Date

Pinson v. DOJ, No. 12-1872, 2018 WL 2336103 (D.D.C. May 23, 2018) (Contreras, J.)

Re:  Multiple requests for a variety of different topics

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "The Court agrees that the searches with respect to [four requests] were adequate, and therefore grants DOJ summary judgment on the adequacy of these searches."  The court finds that "[t]he declaration describes in detail the requests for documents; the specific databases searched and why they were likely to contain responsive documents; the search methodology employed; and the specific search terms used to locate the documents."
     
  • Exemption 6:  "[T]he Court agrees that almost all of these withholdings are covered by Exemption 6[.]"  "First, [the] Court finds that the public interest in discovering what the government is up to is not served by disclosing the name and signature of the plaintiff in a lawsuit against BOP; the name and signature of that plaintiff's attorney; the name, address, administrative claim number, and civil case number of the plaintiff in an administrative claim under the FTCA; or the signature of the Regional Counsel involved in that claim."  "The Court finds it significant that the information withheld involves only one government official, and the Court cannot see how disclosing her signature would inform citizens about the inner workings of their government."  Similarly, "[b]ecause [plaintiff] has presented no public interest to justify this potential invasion of personal privacy, the Court grants Defendant['s] motion as to the office telephone numbers and extensions."  "However, BOP has failed to demonstrate why the third-party, non-BOP employee who assisted with a pre-ACA audit has a privacy interest in not disclosing his or her name that outweighs the public interest in disclosure."  "The record maintains the possibility that this individual was a government employee or a paid government consultant, and 'information that ‘merely identifies the names of government officials who authored documents and received documents’ does not generally fall within Exemption 6.'"  "Conversely, the Court agrees with DOJ that BOP properly invoked Exemption 6 to withhold the names of the third-party, non-BOP employees who conducted the ACA audit."
     
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court finds that "BOP documents at issue here – which pertain to how BOP handles threats to security, how it monitors and maintains the health and safety of its inmates and staff, and how it investigates criminal activity – were created by BOP to fulfill its responsibility of protecting inmates and prison staff."  "Thus, the Court finds that BOP has presented sufficient facts to show that the documents it withheld under Exemption 7 were compiled for law enforcement purposes."
     
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court holds that "BOP has sufficiently demonstrated that private individuals, BOP staff, and other inmates have a privacy interest in withholding their names and other identifying information that outweighs the public interest in disclosure."  "BOP also properly withheld the work telephone numbers of some staff members using Exemption 7(C)."  "While 'a name and work telephone number is not . . . information . . . that normally would be considered protected,' disclosure of the work telephone numbers of law enforcement officials could 'subject [them] to harassing telephone calls[.]'"
     
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court holds that "BOP has sufficiently shown that the 'recommendations for improving future uses of force and corrective measures to be taken for errors identified in the use of force under review' in an After Action Review Report; the 'discrepancies noted and recommendation/results' in Form 586 After Action Review Reports; the list of 'weapons used during the institution disturbance' from an April 20, 2008 Report of Incident; and the 'description of the Bureau's calculated use of force technique and a photo of the technique being used' that it withheld are not generally known to the public and could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law."  "BOP has failed, however, to show that the disclosure of 'documents associated with a statute-based programming assignment used to manage [plaintiff]' could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law."  The court explains that "BOP does not explain whether, because this programming assignment is statute-based, the withheld information is available in the statute and is therefore generally known to the public."
     
  • Exemption 7(F):  Regarding "certain answers to questions in 'witness forms used during [plaintiff's] referral hearing to ADX Florence'; 'discussions of gang and informant activity within the [BOP]'; information that would adversely affect plaintiff's] safety; answers to certain questions on an Intake Screening Form; 'a portion of [plaintiff's] Administrative Detention Order Forms'; 'names and register numbers of third-party inmates from whom . . . [plaintiff] needed to be separated'; 'documents associated with a statute-based programming assignment used to manage [plaintiff]'; the 'institution's policies [on] tools and keys'; 'photographs of locks on cell door and hand restraints'; 'steps used to resolve major crises in a Bureau facility'; answers to certain questions on a 'Screening for Risk of Victimization and Abusiveness Form completed for Pinson'; and the 'Daily Assignment Rosters for institutions[,]'" "[t]he Court agrees that this withheld material falls under Exemption 7(F), excepting the documents associated with [plaintiff's] statute-based programming assignment."  "Regarding BOP's withholding of documents associated with [plaintiff's] statute-based programming assignment, BOP fails to consider how the withholding of names under Exemption 7(C) affects the need for withholding the documents in full under Exemption 7(F)."  The court explains that "reason suggests that the application of Exemption 7(C) to withhold names and identifying information of third-party individuals in these documents will likely dispel any danger to those individuals from disclosing the documents."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that "[t]he combination of the Vaughn Index and [defendant's] declaration are sufficient to fulfill the agency's obligation to show with 'reasonable specificity' why a document cannot be further segregated."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7(E)
Exemption 7(F)
Exemption 7, Threshold
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated January 31, 2020