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Winn v. DOJ, No. 17-833, 2018 WL 464788 (D.D.C. Feb. 6, 2019) (Bates, J.)


Winn v. DOJ, No. 17-833, 2018 WL 464788 (D.D.C. Feb. 6, 2019) (Bates, J.)

Re:  Request for records concerning plaintiff

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

  • Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records:  First, regarding the scope of plaintiff's requests, the court holds that "[e]ven construing the three FOIA requests liberally, their most natural reading is that [plantiff] sought the full set of all records pertaining to him 'while nonetheless evincing a heightened interest in a specific subset' of his records relating to the University of Washington investigation."  "That [plaintiff] eventually informed the FBI that he actually intended to seek all records relating to the investigation, including those that do not pertain to him, does not change the scope of his requests."  "He only told the DOJ that he wanted the full investigative file after the FBI had searched for records responsive to his original requests and had begun to produce documents."  "At that point, the FBI had no 'obligation to search anew based upon a subsequent clarification.'"

    Second, the court finds that "[t]he FBI has satisfied its obligation to conduct an adequate search."  The court relates that the FBI adequately explained that it "processed records within the file that 'related to [its] investigation of [plaintiff],' and omitted records that pertained only to other subjects and hence were not responsive to [plaintiff's] requests."
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that "the Vaughn index and three affidavits submitted by the agency describe in sufficient detail why the information the FBI withheld cannot be further segregated."  "The FBI conducted a page-by-page review of each document to identify non-exempt information that could be released."  "A page was withheld in full only when the FBI determined that any non-exempt information was 'inextricably intertwined with protected personal information' and that '[p]roviding additional information would disclose only incoherent words and phrases divorced from context, or meaningless pieces of information.'"  "This is sufficient to discharge the agency's obligation."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Litigation Considerations, “Reasonably Segregable” Requirements
Procedural Requirements, Searching for Responsive Records
Updated November 16, 2021