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Rivera-Rodriguez v. EOUSA, No. 19-02510, 2022 WL 136793 (D.D.C. Jan. 14, 2022) (Mehta, J.)


Rivera-Rodriguez v. EOUSA, No. 19-02510, 2022 WL 136793 (D.D.C. Jan. 14, 2022) (Mehta, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning grand jury materials in plaintiff's criminal case

Disposition:  Granting defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  "Defendant's initial Vaughn Index grouped all withheld records into three broad categories that prevented the court from [ruling in defendant's favor]: 'Grand Jury Records,' 'Grand Jury Transcripts,' and 'Grand Jury Preliminary Matters.'"  "The updated Index provides greater specificity."  "It states that [the] record[s] . . . consist of 'Grand Jury Minutes,' . . . 'Grand Jury Voting Records' and a 'Record of Concurring Grand Jurors,' and . . . 'Grand Jury Instructions/Charges.'"  
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that "Defendant properly invoked Exemption 3."  "Defendant initially identified 82 pages of responsive records but withheld them all pursuant to FOIA Exemption 3 based on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) . . . ."  "As to 'Grand Jury Minutes,' [defendant's declarant] explains that those records are covered by a sealing order issued by the court in the underlying matter and, if disclosed, would 'reve[a]l the secret discussions of the grand jury.'"  The court determines that "[t]he grand jury minutes are exempt from disclosure under FOIA because those materials . . . 'would tend to reveal some secret aspect of the grand jury's investigation, such ... as the identities or addresses of witnesses or jurors, the substance of testimony, the strategy or direction of the investigation, the deliberations or questions of jurors, and the like.'"   

    "Regarding 'Grand Jury Voting Records' and 'Record of Concurring Grand Jurors,' those records concern the 'voting and deliberation decisions of a grand jury,' whose secrecy 'ensure[s] jurors have the freedom to freely express their opinions and cast their vote without fear of disclosure.'"  The court finds that "[g]rand jury voting records are similarly exempt because they are 'secret aspect[s] of the grand jury's investigation' rather than nonexempt 'information coincidentally before the grand jury.'"   

    "Finally, as to 'Grand Jury Instructions/Charges,' [defendant's declarant] states that such records 'provide a great deal of insight into the inner workings of the grand jury and how its decision was reached.'"  The court finds that "courts in this District have consistently held that Exemption 3 permits the withholding of grand jury instructions."

    The plaintiff "argues that 'he is entitled to . . . any and all documents for the purpose of preparing a defense.'"  The court holds that "FOIA does not entitle him to grand jury material because he is a criminal defendant."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "[T]he court upholds Defendant's determination that it is unable to segregate information withheld under Exemption 3."  "In analyzing the segregability of material withheld pursuant to Exemption 3, courts have noted that agencies must not compromise 'the secret nature of potentially exempt information.'"  The court finds that "Defendant has shown that the requested records are properly exempt under Exemption 3 and further states that it is not possible to segregate the records 'due to the nature and content of the protected information.'"
  • Exemptions 6 & 7C:  "Defendant did release to Plaintiff certain grand jury indictments but withheld the names of the forepersons pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C)."  "Plaintiff does not appear to contest those withholdings."  "But even if they were [at issue], the nondisclosure of the forepersons' names was proper."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 3
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated January 25, 2022