Wilson v. DOJ, No. 15-1149, 2016 WL 3580610 (D.D.C. June 28, 2016) (Cooper, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wilson v. DOJ, No. 15-1149, 2016 WL 3580610 (D.D.C. June 28, 2016) (Cooper, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff's criminal conviction

Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 7(C):  "[T]he Court will grant summary judgment in favor of the government on this aspect of the case."  The court relates that "[t]he government has cited FOIA Exemption 7(C) as authority for redacting from the documents it produced to Wilson personal identifying information for certain DOJ employees, law-enforcement personnel, and third parties."  "The government contends that identifying the individuals who helped investigate and prosecute [plaintiff] 'would shed no light on [DOJ’s] performance of [its] statutory duties.'"  The court finds that "[plaintiff] does not challenge these minimal withholdings, and the Court finds them to be justified for the reason the government states."
     
  • Litigation Considerations, Adequacy of Search:  The court holds that "the government has not shown beyond material doubt that its search was reasonably calculated to uncover all responsive records."  The court explains that, "[f]or two main reasons, the evidentiary record leaves the Court with substantial doubt as to the sufficiency of DOJ's search."  "First, [defendant's declarant] did not 'aver[ ] that all files likely to contain responsive materials . . . were searched.'"  "His blanket assurance that EOUSA's search was 'systematic,' . . . hardly remedies this crucial defect."  "The Court can only speculate about the FOIA contact's methodology – the number and location of any physically searched files, why those files alone were searched, why some staff were deemed 'appropriate' email recipients, and whether any physical searches resulted from those emails."  "[S]econd, [defendant's declarant's] declaration does not satisfy the Court that he had 'a general familiarity with the responsive records' at issue in this case."  "He does claim 'familiar[ity] with the procedures followed by [ ]his office in responding to the FOIA request(s) made to EO[US]A by Plaintiff.'"  "He also asserts that his knowledge is partially 'based upon [his] review of the official files and records of EOUSA.'"  "But the identity of the documents he reviewed remains a mystery: The Court cannot determine whether records maintained by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia qualify as 'official files and records of EOUSA' (as opposed to those of the originating office), and even if they do, it is unclear whether [defendant's declarant] has ever seen the records that were produced[.]"  "He at no point claims familiarity with records responsive to any one FOIA request."
Topic: 
Adequacy of Search
District Court
Exemption 7C
Litigation Considerations
Updated October 20, 2016