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Shaw v. DOJ, No. 18-593, 2019 WL 6135679 (D.D.C. Nov. 19, 2019) (Boasberg, J.)


Shaw v. DOJ, No. 18-593, 2019 WL 6135679 (D.D.C. Nov. 19, 2019) (Boasberg, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning alleged corruption regarding plaintiff's client's private ski and recreational property

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, "Agency Records":  "The Court finds . . . that [certain] pages were properly withheld as non-agency records."  The court relates that defendant "explains that the 300 pages in question relate to 'family members, health, career information, religion, vacations, recreational activities, personal time outside of work, and memorial service information' with attachments of 'private photos of family members and friends.'"  "[Defendant] further avers that '[the author of the documents] did not use the emails to conduct agency business, the emails do not relate to the mission of the Criminal Division, and Criminal Division employees did not rely upon these documents to perform their official duties.'"  "[T]he Court has little trouble concluding that these pages were created and used for the purely personal objective of corresponding with friends and former colleagues in matters entirely unrelated to DOJ activities or [plaintiff's client]."  Responding to plaintiff's argument, the court holds that "sending personal emails to assistants to organize appointments does not render them agency records."
  • Litigation Considerations, Declaration/Vaughn Index:  Responding to plaintiff's objections concerning the adequacy of defendant's declaration, the court holds that "[defendant's] Declaration details the participating parties and the general content of each email."  "It therefore provides sufficient detail for the Court to determine the content of the pages."  Additionally, the court finds that "[a]lthough a declaration 'must be made on personal knowledge' of the records at issue, . . . '[t]he declaration of an agency official who is knowledgeable about the way in which information is processed and is familiar with the documents at issue satisfies the personal knowledge requirement.'"
  • Exemption 6:  "Because Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a public interest to outweigh any privacy interest, this Court finds that Defendant's invocation of Exemption 6 is warranted."  The court relates that defendant withheld "'personal email addresses, home addresses, personal cell phone numbers . . . [,] information regarding . . . their family members[,] . . . recreational activities, personal time outside of work, personal travel, personal finances, religious affiliation, and personal job related information.'"  The court finds that "[plaintiff's] allegation is 'bare suspicion,' not evidence that would warrant a belief by a reasonable person that government impropriety had occurred."
  • Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection:  "Because DOJ has sufficiently detailed support for why it withheld and redacted pages, [the] Court will not grant in camera review."  The court finds that "DOJ has met its burden by submitting a highly detailed Vaughn Index and declaration."  "Further, in camera review is more appropriate when a few pages are in question; here, however, Plaintiff asks for hundreds of pages to be reviewed."  "This is much more demanding on the Court."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, In Camera Inspection
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Procedural Requirements, Agency Records
Updated December 9, 2021