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Smith v. DOJ, No. 14-1853, 2015 WL 4450001 (D.D.C. July 20, 2015) (Lamberth, J.)


Smith v. DOJ, No. 14-1853, 2015 WL 4450001 (D.D.C. July 20, 2015) (Lamberth, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning third party and plaintiff

Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemptions 6 & 7(C), Glomar:  "Since there is no indication in this record that the requested third-party records exist, and the privacy interests are substantial, the Court finds that defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its Glomar response."  The court also finds that plaintiff's argument that "'personal information [and identity are] already known to [him].' . . . is of no material consequence and exhibits a basic misunderstanding about the FOIA because 'when a document must be disclosed under FOIA, it must be disclosed to the general public and the identity of the requester is irrelevant to whether disclosure is required.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies:  The court holds that "[t]he record supports DEA's position" "that [the adequacy of defendant's search] is not properly before the Court because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with regard to any other aspect of the request," "but plaintiff's failure to exhaust does not deprive the court of jurisdiction 'because the FOIA does not unequivocally make it so.'"  The court explains that "because DEA found no records responsive to plaintiff's first-party request, and the record is sufficiently developed to assess DEA's search for those records, there is 'no risk of undermining the purposes and policies underlying the exhaustion requirement.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "Based on [defendant's] description of DEA's filing systems and the search methods employed, the Court finds that DEA conducted a search reasonably calculated to locate records pertaining to plaintiff."  The court relates that defendant searched the location where responsive records were "reasonably likely to be found," using a method which would retrieve all responsive records, and using "plaintiff's name and social security number" as search terms.
  • Procedural Requirements, Routing:  The court holds that defendant acted appropriately, however, "[n]ow that plaintiff has submitted a request to the FBI, any potential claim arising from DEA's failure to reroute the request is moot in any event."  The court explains that "DEA properly informed plaintiff that its statutory obligation extended to processing records in its custody and control at the time of the FOIA request."  "DEA further informed plaintiff that he 'may wish to forward a request' to the FBI, which is consistent with DOJ's regulation that FOIA requests be submitted to the agency's components."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Procedural Requirements, Supplemental to Main Categories
Updated January 12, 2022