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White v. DOJ, No. 21-1229, 2021 WL 4931348 (7th Cir. Oct. 22, 2021) (per curiam)


White v. DOJ, No. 21-1229, 2021 WL 4931348 (7th Cir. Oct. 22, 2021) (per curiam)

Re:  Request for records concerning requester and white-supremacist groups

Disposition:  Affirming district court's grant of government's motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations & Procedural Requirements:  The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit relates that "the first issue is whether the district court improperly entered judgment and relinquished jurisdiction before the FBI sent [the requester] all documents responsive to his FOIA requests."  The court finds that "[j]udicial authority to devise a FOIA remedy depends on a finding 'that an agency has (1) "improperly"; (2) "withheld"; (3) "agency records."'"  "Here, the FBI’s 500-page-per-month schedule did not amount to an improper withholding of records, and the district court was given no evidence that the agency is not meeting that schedule."  Additionally, the court finds that "[a]lthough [the requester] denies that he seeks 'expedited' – as opposed to routine, 'prompt' – production, his thrust is that he is entitled to faster production because he is pursuing a topic of widespread interest as contemplated by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(E)(i) and 28 C.F.R. § 16.5(e)(1)(iv)."  "But [the requester's] pursuit is not of widespread interest; his principal aim is to cast doubt on his own criminal convictions by suggesting that he was entrapped or framed."
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit holds that "[the requester] next argues that the agencies did not conduct reasonable searches."  "But each agency submitted an affidavit detailing the FOIA process and the searches here, and these affidavits entitle the agencies to a presumption of good faith."  In pertinent part, the court notes that "[the requester] contends that testimony by an FBI agent regarding an investigation into members of the Aryan Strike Force indicated the FBI must have had records on the group."  "But that testimony detailed an investigation that occurred after the FBI responded to [the requester's] FOIA request."
  • Exemptions 6 & 7(C) Glomar:  The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit relates that "[the requester] also argues that the FBI improperly used Glomar responses for four people who had previously asserted a link to the FBI."  "But [the court finds that] the supposed links were never asserted by the FBI and do not constitute official disclosures."  "Informally confirming some connection to the FBI may have diminished these individuals' privacy interests, . . . but it does not extinguish them for all purposes."  "Further, [the requester] provides no clear public interest to overcome even the diminished privacy interests here."
  • Attorney Fees:  The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit relates that "[the requester] next takes issue with the district court's decision not to award costs against the agencies."  The court finds that, "[h]ere, even if [the court] might debate whether [the requester] substantially prevailed against the Marshals Service, the district court properly exercised its discretion to deny [the requester's] request because his purpose for seeking the records – chasing his conspiracy theory that the government created the white-supremacy movement to entrap people like him – has provided no public benefit."
  • Litigation Considerations:  The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit relates that "[the requester] argues that both the Marshals Service and FBI should be sanctioned."  "He says that the Marshals Service lied when it told the court in 2018 that it had resumed processing [the requester's] request and would finish soon, though no records were furnished until 2020."  "But the Marshals Service explained that it meant to abide by the self-imposed July 2018 deadline, and staff turnover and errors caused it to push that deadline back."  The court finds that "[t]he district court was not required to treat this as willful misconduct."  "[The requester] also says the FBI lied about not having records on the Aryan Strike Force and about not having investigated him."  "Yet, as previously noted, there is no indication that the FBI had files on the Aryan Strike Force at the time it responded to [the requester's] FOIA requests."  "Further, the FBI never denied that it investigated him; rather, it denied, as fanciful, [the requester's] assertions that the government fabricated the modern white-supremacy movement and used it to frame him."
Court Decision Topic(s)
Court of Appeals opinions
Attorney Fees
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Supplemental to Main Categories
Updated November 15, 2021