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Williams v. ATF, No. 15-1969, 2017 WL 3978580 (D. Md. Sept. 8, 2017) (Grimm, J.)


Williams v. ATF, No. 15-1969, 2017 WL 3978580 (D. Md. Sept. 8, 2017) (Grimm, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff's criminal case

Disposition:  Granting defendants' motion for summary judgment

  • Litigation Considerations, Relief:  The court relates that, "[f]ocusing on ATF's three alleged failures to respond, rather than its ultimate response, [plaintiff] maintains that he is entitled to damages."  The court holds that "[m]onetary damages for failing to respond or failing to disclose responsive records under FOIA are not available . . . and [plaintiff's] claim for damages must be dismissed."
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that "[t]he non-disclosure of firearms trace data in response to [plaintiff's] FOIA request was proper under Exemption 3 as it is clearly prohibited by the [Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012]."  "[Plaintiff's] assertion that the information withheld was used as evidence in his trial . . . does not refute the ATF's position that they are prohibited from disclosing the information for a FOIA response."  "There is no exception allowing disclosure simply because the requester has 'personal knowledge of the firearms' as asserted by [plaintiff]."
  • Exemptions 6 & 7(C):  The court finds that defendant properly invoked Exemptions 6 and 7(C) to withhold "the names and other identifying information of law enforcement personnel and non-law enforcement third parties in records that were compiled for law enforcement purposes."  Additionally, the court finds that defendant appropriately withheld the content of a certain conversation because "[t]he undisclosed content of the conversation falls within the exemption and was properly withheld and [plaintiff's] vague and generalized claim of misconduct does not overcome that justification."
  • Exemption 7(E):  The court holds that "[r]eliance on this exemption to withhold TECS information from the documents disclosed to [plaintiff] in response to his FOIA request is appropriate and [plaintiff's] conclusory assertion that the information withheld contains exculpatory material . . . does not refute the basis for withholding the information."  The court relates that "ATF determined that disclosure of TECS information could allow individuals outside the agency to gain unauthorized access to sensitive investigative information and to circumvent the agency's functions."  "Further, access to this information could lead to the creation of false records by an individual and result in the circumvention of the ATF's law enforcement duties."
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  The court holds that "[w]ithholding of duplicative material in response to a FOIA request is reasonable where, as here, the agency provides a detailed declaration under oath and a Vaughn Index."  The court finds that "ATF has provided sufficient information for [plaintiff] to identify the duplicate information withheld and its non-disclosure was proper."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 3
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Exemption 7(E)
Litigation Considerations, Relief
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Updated December 15, 2021