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Pinson v. DOJ, No. 18-486, 2020 WL 1509517 (D.D.C. Mar. 30, 2020) (Contreras, J.)

Date

Pinson v. DOJ, No. 18-486, 2020 WL 1509517 (D.D.C. Mar. 30, 2020) (Contreras, J.)

Re:  Over 50 of plaintiff's FOIA requests

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  The court discusses a lengthy list of requests from plaintiff.  On some requests, the court finds that "[plaintiff] [did not] exhaust[] her administrative remedies by failing to proceed as instructed by BOP, and will grant summary judgment to the DOJ for [plaintiff's] claims relating to [these requests]."  On a separate BOP request, the court finds that "while [plaintiff] has twice attempted to pay the fees, the DOJ argues that she has failed to follow the instructed method for doing so."  "Moreover, even if Pinson were successful in paying her fees in the future, she must comply with BOP's fee regulations before filing suit."  Concerning another batch of plaintiff's BOP requests, addressing plaintiff's arguments that she could not have administratively exhausted her remedies because she did not receive any responses from BOP, the court finds that "[w]ithout any meaningful supporting evidence from either side, the dispute boils down to DOJ's word against [plaintiff's]."  "Because at summary judgment the Court must view facts in the light most favorable to the non–movant, . . . the Court must accept as true [plaintiff's] declaration that she did not receive any responses."  "Accordingly, the Court denies summary judgment for the DOJ for [plaintiff's] claims relating to [this batch of] Requests . . . ."  Concerning one request, "[g]iven the uncontested evidence that specific requested record was released in full, the Court grants summary judgment for this request."  Regarding another batch of requests, the court finds that "[w]hile [plaintiff] was ultimately not successful in her administrative appeals, she did use and exhaust the administrative remedy available to her, leaving her the right to file suit in federal court."  "Accordingly, the Court denies summary judgment for DOJ for [plaintiff's] claims relating to [these requests] for failure to exhaust administrative remedies."  Also, the court finds that "DOJ argues that OIP legitimately discontinued processing [plaintiff's] FOIA requests due to [plaintiff's] failure to pay outstanding fees to the FBI and BOP."  "[Plaintiff] has not challenged this decision or alleged she was unaware of the decision to discontinue processing because of the unpaid fees."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search; Exemption 7, Threshold; Exemption 7(C); Exemption 7(F); Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  Regarding a USMS request, "the Court finds that [USMS's] detailed explanation of the search process establishes that the agency undertook a search reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents."  "As to the exemption themselves, the documents meet Exemption 7's threshold requirement: being compiled for law enforcement purposes."  "As [USMS] explains, the documents were generated by the agency in the course of the arrest and detention of [plaintiff] and thus 'quite obviously related to the [USMS's] law enforcement duties.'"  "Under Exemption 7(C), [USMS] also reasonably stated why the privacy interest of the law enforcement officer and the third-party mentioned in the report outweighed any conceivable public interest in the information."  "Similarly, she justified the use of Exemption 7(F), which allows the withholding of information that could 'could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual,' . . . to protect the names of individuals involved in a threat investigation."  "Lastly, [USMS's] explanation of the agency's careful efforts to release all segregable information is satisfactory, particularly in light of the minimal, highly-specific withholdings."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "[T]he Court agrees with DOJ that [four] searches [which sought public documents] were adequate."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Pleadings:  "[T]he Court will dismiss [plaintiff's] FOIA claims against the CIA as conceded."  The court relates that "[i]n her Amended Complaint, [plaintiff] states that she submitted two FOIA requests to the CIA, 'which were neither answered, nor a file number of the request provided other than a letter acknowledging the requests.'"  "However, [plaintiff] does not elaborate further any factual allegations regarding these requests, such as the date the request was made, the subject matter of the requests, or the date the letter acknowledging the requests was received."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7(F)
Exemption 7, Threshold
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Litigation Considerations, Pleadings
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated May 8, 2020