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Willis v. FBI, No. 17-1959, 2019 WL 2138036 (D.D.C. May 16, 2019) (Jackson, J.)


Willis v. FBI, No. 17-1959, 2019 WL 2138036 (D.D.C. May 16, 2019) (Jackson, J.)

Re:  Requests for records concerning plaintiff, as well as copies of prior FOIA/Privacy Act requests FBI had received regarding plaintiff, and FBI's responses to any such requests

Disposition:  Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion to compel Vaughn index

  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that, "[b]ased on [defendant's] uncontested descriptions of the searches that the FBI conducted in response to [plaintiff's] various requests for records, this Court easily finds that the agency's searches were adequate."  The court explains that "[defendant's] declaration lays out a detailed description of the types of records maintained in its record systems and the manner in which the FBI organizes and retrieves records from these systems."
  • Exemption 6:  "[T]he Court concludes that the FBI did not violate the FOIA when it invoked Exemption 6 to withhold this [FBI] employee's name."  The court relates that "[plaintiff] has not challenged any of [defendant's] assertions."  "Moreover, this Court agrees that the privacy interest here is substantial, and that the public interest in release of this single name is minimal, because it 'reveals little or nothing about an agency's own conduct' and 'does not further the [FOIA's] statutory purpose.'"
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  "[T]he Court must conclude that the FBI has demonstrated that it has satisfied its duty to release to [plaintiff] all reasonably segregable, non-exempt information."  The court explains that "[defendant] identifies a single piece of information that the agency has withheld on the grounds that it is exempt from disclosure – the name of one FBI employee – and [it] further states that all other information responsive to [plaintiff's] records requests was provided to her."
  • Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declaration:  "[T]he Court must deny [plaintiff's] request that it compel the FBI 'to provide an itemized, indexed inventory of every agency record or portion thereof in response to Plaintiff's request which Defendant asserts to be exempt from disclosure, accompanied by a detailed justification statement covering each refusal to release records or portions thereof in accordance with the indexing requirements of Vaughn v. Rosen.'"  The court finds that "[defendant's] declaration not only identifies the withheld material, but also provides a cogent explanation as to why disclosure of that piece of information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of that employee's personal privacy."  "Thus, the declaration accomplishes the purposes of a Vaughn index, and thereby obviates any need for such an additional filing."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search
Litigation Considerations, Vaughn Index/Declarations
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Updated January 11, 2022