Stephens v. DOJ, No. 13-0323, 2014 WL 1015803 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2014) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stephens v. DOJ, No. 13-0323, 2014 WL 1015803 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2014) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.)

Re: Request for investigatory reports and records concerning plaintiff, as well as records concerning confidential sources and witnesses used in plaintiff's criminal case

Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that it "is satisfied that defendant conducted a reasonably adequate search for responsive records and, thus, will enter summary judgment for defendant on the search question."  The court notes that "[t]he FBI's declarant has provided a detailed description of the FBI's Central Records System . . . and explained to the Court's satisfaction why that record system is most likely to (and did) contain records responsive to plaintiff's requests."
     
  • Exemption 3:  The court relates that "[t]he FBI applied this exemption to withhold information pursuant to the Pen Register Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3123."  The court finds that "[p]laintiff has not contested defendant's application of this exemption, which the Court finds properly justified."
     
  • Exemption 7(A):  The court finds that "[p]laintiff has not contested the application of this exemption, which the Court finds is properly justified."  The court relates that "defendant invoked exemption 7(A) to withhold completely investigatory records pertaining to 'the [unsolved] murder of a cooperating witness who obtained information during the investigation on a multiple of suspects and their potential and/or actual involvement with [the] violent street gang' that is the subject of plaintiff's FOIA request."
     
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court "finds that plaintiff has not established what, if any, withheld information responsive to his sweeping request is in the public domain to compel its release."  The court explains that "[t]o defeat summary judgment, plaintiff must cite to particular parts of the record to show that the requested information is identical to that in the public domain."  The court further explains that "[i]t is not the Court's role to search through a party's exhibits, even those of a pro se litigant, with the hope of finding the alleged matching pieces."
     
  • Exemption 7(D):  The court "finds that defendant properly invoked exemption 7(D) to protect confidential source information from disclosure under both express and implied grants of confidentiality."  The court holds that "this FOIA record, coupled with plaintiff's conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine base, presents the very circumstances 'where the violent nature of the crime at issue—homicide, drug trafficking, [and] gang-related crime—"characteristically supports an inference of confidentiality" that a court can generically apply to all informants.'''
     
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court notes that "[p]laintiff has not contested this claimed exemption, and the Court finds that it was properly invoked."  The court relates that the withheld information consisted of "'non-public FBI computer systems and database search procedures utilized during the investigation of plaintiff, and his affiliation with [the gang],'" "'the operational details and evidence collection procedures during controlled substance buys,'" and "'the locations, investigative assistance, monitoring techniques, types of devices utilized ..., command and control, and ... joint law enforcement arrest coordination plans conducted by the FBI and its law enforcement partners.'"
     
  • Exemption 7(F):  The court "finds the FBI's invocation of this exemption, which is consistent with the already approved basis for withholding information under exemption 7(D), properly justified."  The court notes that the information withheld consisted of "the identifying information of third-party individuals who provided 'valuable intelligence during the [subject] investigation.'"
     
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonable Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that it "is satisfied from its own examination of the Bates-numbered redacted pages and deleted page sheets that such a review occurred and that all reasonably segregable information was disclosed."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 3
Exemption 7A
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7D
Exemption 7E
Exemption 7F
Litigation Considerations
Segregability
Updated October 2, 2014