Soto v. Dep't of State, No. 14-604, 2016 WL 3390667 (D.D.C. June 17, 2016) (Moss, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning plaintiffs' visa applications
Disposition: Granting defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiffs' renewed motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration
- Exemption 3: "[T]he Court concludes that the Department acted lawfully in withholding records relating to [one plaintiff's] visa revocation pursuant to Exemption 3" because the court finds that "8 U.S.C. § 1202(f), which makes confidential those State Department records that 'pertain [ ] to the issuance of refusal of visas or permits to enter the United States,' also protects records that pertain to the revocation of visas." The court relates that "it initially declined to resolve this question because it was not clear, on the record previously before the Court, whether the Department had withheld any 'documents that solely relate[d] to the revocation of a visa,' or whether instead it had withheld only records that related both to the denial of [one plaintiff's] visa and the revocation of [another plaintiff's] student visa." "Because the Court [still] cannot be certain whether the Department in fact withheld only documents that it relied upon in denying [one plaintiff's] visa application or whether, instead, it withheld at least some documents that were used only to revoke [another plaintiff's] visa (and would not 'disclose confidential information regarding the denial of [[the first plaintiff's]] visa,'…), the Court will assume the latter." "That is, the Court will assume that at least some of those records withheld by the Department were relied upon only in revoking [the second plaintiff's] visa – and, operating on that assumption, will address whether § 1202(f) protects such records." The court finds that "[t]he language of the statute, standing alone, is sufficiently capacious to encompass this result [that the court reaches]." "Indeed, although the Court previously withheld judgment on the issue, it now holds that the statutory language is best read to reach visa revocations, which 'pertain' to the 'issuance or refusal of visas or permits to enter the United States.'" "That is, as a textual mater, a decision to revoke a visa relates to, has a bearing on, or concerns the issuance of the visa . . . – it nullifies that action."
- Litigation Considerations: The court also denies plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. Responding to plaintiff's arguments, the court finds that "[t]he fact that a different agency failed to identify responsive documents does not undermine the Department's assertion that it located responsive documents, nor is it evident how such a suggestion would support the plaintiffs' efforts to obtain documents from the Department."