Sennett v. DOJ, No. 12-495, 2013 WL 4517177 (D.D.C. Aug. 27, 2013) (Boasberg, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of the Search:  The court finds that, "[b]ased on the facts here and Defendant's explanation as to why it was unlikely that responsive records would be located in the electronic surveillance indices, . . . the agency's decision not to search this source was reasonable."  The court notes that, "[t]he sole issue Plaintiff raises with respect to the adequacy of [defendant's] search is that [defendant] did not look in its electronic surveillance (ELSUR) files for responsive records."  "Defendant maintains that it was not required to search this source because it was not reasonably likely that the ELSUR indices would contain responsive records."  The court holds that, "[a] plaintiff's conjecture regarding possible sources that have not been searched is not sufficient to undermine an agency's position that responsive documents would not be contained in a particular database."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.  The court, "having reviewed the redacted documents and [defendant] Declaration, . . . finds that no segregability problem exists here."  The court notes that "[t]he documents have careful and pinpointed redactions of names, words, clauses, and sentences."  The court further explains that, "[w]hile a number of other documents have been withheld in their entirety, there is nothing to suggest that there is material that could have been released on these pages."  Moreover, the court finds that defendant, "deserves the benefit of the doubt when it has painstakingly segregated material on the produced documents the court has reviewed."
  • Exemption 1:  The court finds that it, "need not analyze such compliance . . . because all relevant documents covered by Exemption 1 were also withheld under Exemption 7(E)."
  • Exemption 3:  The court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.  The court notes that, "[d]efendant invokes this exemption based on the Pen Register statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3123, and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which governs grand jury information."  "First, as to pen-register information," the court finds that, "[defendant's] Declaration clearly states that the pen-register information was 'subject to a sealing order by the court,'" and, "it describes the material being withheld as information that would reveal 'the identities and phone numbers of the individuals subject to pen registers in this case.'"  "Second," the court finds that, "[defendant] relies on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which bars the disclosure of matters occurring before a grand jury."  The court finds that, "[t]he documents Defendant describes fall squarely within this exemption because they would 'tend to reveal some secret aspect of the grand jury's investigation [of] such matters.'"  "Additionally, the court rejects Plaintiff's invitation to recognize the 'special circumstances' doctrine here, as she has failed to provide the court with any authority to suggest that the facts in this case implicate that rare exception."
  • Exemption 7(D):  The court finds that it, "cannot sanction the withholdings under Exemption 7(D) as the record now stands."  The court explains that, "[w]hile recognizing [defendant's] concerns in divulging too much information regarding its confidential sources, the court agrees with [plaintiff] that the details in this description 'are so sparse that Plaintiff does not have' sufficient information to challenge whether the circumstances support an inference of confidentiality."  The court continues to state that, "[w]hile [defendant] has explained the character of the crime at issue, it has not provided any information on the other Roth factors."  The court explains that, "[a]t a minimum, there must be some mention of the source's relation to the crime."  Therefore, the court holds that, "[d]efendant shall [] release the documents withheld pursuant to this exemption or file a subsequent summary judgment motion supported by adequate declarations."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 1
Exemption 3
Exemption 7D
Litigation Considerations
Segregability
Updated August 6, 2014