Smith v. EOUSA, No. 13-1088, 2015 WL 1285823 (D.D.C. Mar. 28, 2015) (Leon, J.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Smith v. EOUSA, No. 13-1088, 2015 WL 1285823 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2015) (Leon, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning certain seized drugs

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

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  "The Court concludes that the DEA's search of [an] Investigative Case File . . . for 'chain of custody' information was reasonable."  The court relates that "[t]he DEA's declarant explains that '[t]here is no report or other document ... maintained by DEA'" which has the title plaintiff requested.  "The case number provided by plaintiff . . . is that of 'a file ... maintained in the DEA Investigative Reporting and Filing System ... [which] contains criminal investigative information gathered by DEA during the course of a criminal investigation.'"  "Therefore, DEA construes plaintiff's FOIA request as one 'seeking all investigative records maintained by DEA contained in [the investigative file].'"  In response to plaintiff's arguments, the court finds that "[t]he DEA's supporting declarations are 'accorded a presumption of good faith, which cannot be rebutted by purely speculative claims about the existence and discoverability of other documents.'"  Additionally, the court finds that "the DEA is not obligated to answer questions or to produce particular records supporting plaintiff's many challenges . . . to certain facts underlying his arrest and conviction."
  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court first notes that, "[a]lthough the Court may treat the DEA's unopposed arguments as conceded, summary judgment is warranted only if 'the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'"  The court then finds that "[t]he [defendant] readily establishes that the records at issue were compiled for law enforcement purposes."  The court explains that "[t]he DEA is authorized to investigate 'incidences involving the trafficking in controlled substances ... and the violators who operate at interstate and international levels,' . . . and the relevant records 'were compiled during a criminal law enforcement investigation of the plaintiff and several third-parties.'"
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court holds that "[t]he DEA's decision to withhold this third-party information from the responsive records is proper."  The court relates that, "under FOIA Exemption 7(C), the DEA withheld the names of and identifying information about 'individuals who were involved or associated with plaintiff or with a law enforcement investigation,' . . . including DEA Special Agents and other law enforcement officers."  Additionally, the court finds that "[b]ecause this information properly is withheld under Exemption 7(C) alone, the Court need not determine the applicability of any other exemption."
  • Exemption 7(E):  "The Court concludes that the DEA properly withholds . . . G–DEP codes under Exemption 7(E)."  The court explains that "DEA withheld G–DEP codes . . . which not only are 'part of DEA's internal system of identifying information and individuals,' . . . but also 'indicate the classification of the violator(s), the types and amounts of suspected drugs involved, the priority of the investigation and the suspected location and scope of criminal activity.'"  "Disclosure of G–DEP codes, [defendant] explains, 'would allow violators to identify priority given to narcotics investigations, types of criminal activities, and violator ratings,' which in turn would assist them in avoiding detection."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "Based on the DEA declarant's assertion, . . . the Court concludes that all reasonably segregable information has been released."
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 7
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7E
Litigation Considerations
Updated June 18, 2015