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EXNER v. U.S. DOJ

September 22, 1995

JUDITH KATHERINE EXNER, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 Plaintiff, Judith Katherine Exner, brought this case pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq., seeking unredacted versions of two documents from the Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Presently pending are cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part. Exner's motion is denied.

 I. Background

 Exner brought this action on December 21, 1993, seeking unredacted copies of two records in the possession of the FBI: (1) An August 17, 1962 memorandum from C.A. Evans to Mr. Belmont, captioned "John Roselli, Anti-Racketeering," describing, inter alia, a break-in at Exner's apartment which was observed by the FBI; and (2) a memorandum from the Special Investigative Division, dated November 4, 1963, which also refers to the break-in at Exner's apartment. Complaint P 4. *fn1" Prior to filing this case, Exner had been provided with redacted versions of these documents, and was advised that information was withheld pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C). During the pendency of this case, additional information from the documents was disclosed to plaintiff on two occasions: once in response to her administrative appeal, and once after plaintiff provided information that one of the individuals named in the documents was deceased.

 The FBI continues to withhold information constituting identifying data or details concerning a former Special Agent of the FBI and two individuals identified as the sons of the former Special Agent, on the grounds that the information is exempt from disclosure pursuant to FOIA Exemption (b)(7)(C). That Exemption permits the government to withhold information compiled for law enforcement purposes if the release of the information could reasonably be expected to constitute an invasion of personal privacy. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(C). Exner disputes both that the information was compiled for law enforcement purposes and that its disclosure would invade the individuals' personal privacy.

 II. Analysis

 "The standard governing a grant of summary judgment in favor of an agency's claim that it has fully discharged its disclosure obligations under FOIA is well-established." Weisberg v. Dep't of Justice, 227 U.S. App. D.C. 253, 705 F.2d 1344, 1350 (D.C. Cir. 1983). "The agency bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, even when the underlying facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the requestor." Id. Moreover, to the extent the government claims that documents are exempt from disclosure, the burden is on the government to prove that a given exemption applies, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B), and courts are to interpret the exemptions narrowly, recognizing that "disclosure, not secrecy, is the dominant objective" of FOIA's statutory scheme. Dep't of Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 361, 48 L. Ed. 2d 11, 96 S. Ct. 1592 (1976).

 Exemption 7(C) protects from disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, "but only to the extent that the production of such [information] . . . could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(C). In order for Exemption 7(C) to apply, a three-part test must be satisfied. The records "(1) must be . . . 'investigatory record[s],' (2) must have been 'compiled for law enforcement purposes,' and (3) must satisfy the requirements of one of the six subparts of Exemption 7." Pratt v. Webster, 218 U.S. App. D.C. 17, 673 F.2d 408, 413 (D.C. Cir. 1982).

 A. Were the Records "Compiled for Law Enforcement Purposes"?

 With regard to the first two prongs of the Pratt test, the Declaration of Robert A. Moran ("Moran I") attached to defendant's motion for summary judgment, states:

 
The two documents at issue were retrieved from FBI investigatory file 92-3267. . . This file contains documents compiled in the course of FBI investigatory activities concerning the late John Roselli, the subject of an intensive FBI investigation into his underworld/criminal activities. The FBI investigation was instituted and conducted under the provisions of the Federal Anti-Racketeering statutes. Thus, the documents clearly constitute records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes within the meaning of [Exemption 7(C)].

 Moran I at P 19.

 Plaintiff disputes that the records were compiled for law enforcement purposes, arguing that "it is evident that the information withheld in these documents had no bearing on an investigation of Johnny Rosselli [sic]." Plaintiff's Motion at 8. Plaintiff asserts that the specific information she seeks concerns not the investigation of Roselli, but rather, the break-in to Exner's apartment. Exner further argues that the FBI "withheld information and covered up the commission of a crime" by not reporting the break-in to local authorities. Under these circumstances, Exner contends that the government should not be permitted to withhold the information pursuant to the law enforcement exception. Motion at 9. Moreover, throughout her pleadings, Exner insists that the FBI's surveillance activities and the resulting records were not for law enforcement purposes but rather for political purposes. *fn2" Finally, plaintiff contends that at least a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the records were compiled for law enforcement purposes, such that summary judgment should be denied.

 Plaintiff's arguments, while interesting, are ultimately unpersuasive in light of the test established by our Circuit Court for determining whether records were compiled for law enforcement ...


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