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Shapiro v. DOJ, No. 13-0729, 2014 WL 1280275 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2014) (Friedman, J.)


Shapiro v. DOJ, No. 13-0729, 2014 WL 1280275 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2014) (Friedman, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning Aaron Swartz, recently deceased computer programmer, activist, and doctoral candidate at MIT

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; holding parties' cross-motions for summary judgment in abeyance with respect to search issue

  • Exemptions 6 and 7(C):  The court concludes that defendant properly invoked Exemptions 6 and 7(C).  "With respect to [the names of] FBI support personnel," "the Court agrees that the redactions made by the FBI are justified under Exemptions 6 and 7(C)."  The court explains that "there is no public interest sufficient to outweigh the privacy interests of [the FBI’s] Special Agents and support personnel."  Regarding "the names . . . of third parties who provided information to the FBI, as well as of individuals who were only incidentally mentioned in records responsive to plaintiff's request[,]" " the Court is persuaded that the disclosure of such information would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy."  Regarding the withholding of "the name of a non-FBI federal employee[,] . . . declarant explains that disclosure of this information could subject the individual to unauthorized injuries and harassment, . . . and the Court agrees."
  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  The court first finds that "plaintiff's request is not confined to records 'of a criminal investigative nature'" and therefore directs defendant "to consider whether responsive records would reasonably reside outside [the system defendant searched], and either perform any additional appropriate searches in databases or records systems outside [the system defendant searched] or explain why additional searches would not be appropriate."  The court also finds that "[a]lthough the Court recognizes that a full-text search may not be warranted in every case, it finds the FBI's explanation as to why it was unwarranted here to be lacking."  The court therefore "direct[s] the FBI to either conduct a full-text search . . . or provide further explanation as to why such a search is unnecessary in this particular case."  Additionally, "[t]he Court . . . is unable to determine whether the FBI's decision to withhold the third-party requests is a reasonable one."  Therefore, "[t]he Court will direct the FBI to provide the third-party requests and related documents received after the cut-off date or explain further why its decision to withhold these documents is reasonable."  Last, the court notes that "plaintiff raises a number of other challenges to the adequacy of the search, but the Court does not find any of these to have merit."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records
Updated February 3, 2022