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Taylor v. DOJ, No. 20-927, 2023 WL 2734082 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2023) (Cobb, J.)


Taylor v. DOJ, No. 20-927, 2023 WL 2734082 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2023) (Cobb, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff’s criminal case

Disposition:  Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment

  • Procedural Requirements, FOIA Requesters:  The court finds enforceable “[plaintiff’s] waiver of his FOIA rights as part of his plea agreement in a criminal proceeding.”  Responding to plaintiff’s arguments, first, the court relates that “[plaintiff] argues that he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his FOIA rights because he did not fully understand the content and consequences of the waiver.”  The court finds that “[plaintiff] does not dispute that he signed the agreement.”  “The agreement contains a clear, express waiver of his FOIA rights.”  “[Plaintiff’s] attorney signed the agreement as well, indicating that he had ‘carefully discussed every part’ of the agreement with [plaintiff].”  “At the plea hearing, [plaintiff] confirmed on the record that he was ‘able to read and understand . . . the plea agreement.’”  “He also stated that he specifically understood the fact that he was waiving his right to request ‘any records pertaining to the investigation or prosecution of this case’ under both FOIA and the Privacy Act.”  “Thus, contrary to the representations [plaintiff] makes in his briefs, the evidence in the record overwhelmingly shows that [plaintiff] understood ‘the nature of the right’ he was waiving at the time of his plea.”  The court then finds that “EOUSA explains plausibly that the waiver provision at issue (1) protects the substantial privacy interests of the victim who lived in a ‘relatively small community’ and (2) reduces the likelihood of ‘re-victimization.’”  “There is nothing in the record to dispute those representations.”  “As for [plaintiff’s] argument that those same interests could be protected by the exemptions in FOIA itself (or, in the alternative, via in camera review by this Court), . . . the Court observes that courts and ‘FOIA processors are hardly infallible’ when it comes to identifying and redacting potentially harmful information.”  “Precedent suggests that, having determined that the waiver served a legitimate interest, the Court’s inquiry is complete.”  “Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Court considers [plaintiff’s] argument that the public's interest in disclosure outweighs any criminal-justice interest advanced by the agency.”  “[T]he court discerns no public policy outweighing EOUSA’s legitimate criminal-justice interest in protecting the child victim.”  “‘[N]othing more is required’ to enforce [plaintiff’s] waiver.”
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Procedural Requirements, FOIA Requesters
Updated May 1, 2023