The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.
Granting the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
This case comes before the court upon the defendant's motion for
summary judgment. The plaintiff, Alberto Flores (the "plaintiff" or "Mr.
Flores"), a pro se prisoner, brought this action under the Freedom of
Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, as amended, and the Privacy
Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, for access to certain records
maintained by the Executive Office for the United States Attorneys
("EOUSA"). Specifically, the plaintiff sought grand jury materials
relating to himself. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the
plaintiff filed an opposition. For the following reasons, the court will
grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.
On December 28, 1998, the plaintiff sent a FOIA request to the
defendant. He sought materials from the grand jury that indicted him in
his 1997 criminal case, United States v. Flores, 97-cr-808 (S.D.Fla).
See Compl. at 2; Mot. for Summ. J., Decl. of Suzanne Little, at 2.
Specifically, the plaintiff wanted disclosure of: (1) the transcripts of
testimony provided by witnesses who appeared before the grand jury; (2)
the ballots showing the grand jurors' votes on whether to return an
indictment; and (3) the exhibits shown to the grand jury. See Compl. at
The defendant denied the request on January 21, 1999. In a letter from
Ms. Bonnie Gay ("Ms. Gay"), the Assistant Director of the EOUSA's Freedom
of Information/Privacy Act Unit, the defendant informed Mr. Flores that
FOIA provides only for the disclosure of "agency records," and since the
grand jury was considered an arm of the court, it was not deemed an
"agency." See Compl., Ex. B. In addition, Ms. Gay stated that grand jury
material is also exempt from mandatory release pursuant to
5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(3) ("exemption 3"). Id. Explaining that exemption
3 blocks the release of "matters specifically exempted from disclosure by
statute," Ms. Gay said that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)
provides that grand jury proceedings shall be secret. Thus, she asserted,
disclosure of grand jury information is prohibited by law. See id.
The plaintiff timely appealed the EOUSA determination to the Office of
Information and Privacy, which affirmed on August 17, 1999. The plaintiff
filed his complaint in this court, and the defendant now moves for
summary judgment. The court will grant the defendant's motion.
Summary judgment is appropriate upon a finding that "there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The
substantive law upon which a claim rests determines which facts are
"material." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ld.2d 202 (1986). If a fact bears upon an essential
element of the legal claim, then it is material; otherwise, it is not.
See id.; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ld.2d 265 (1986). Only disputes over facts that can
establish an element of the claim, and thus those that might affect its
ultimate resolution, can create a "genuine issue" sufficient to preclude
summary judgment. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505;
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.
To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must
establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the
non-moving party has failed to offer sufficient evidence to support a
valid legal claim. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505;
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548. In ruling on the motion, the
court must accept the evidence of the non-moving party as true and must
draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. It is not sufficient,
however, for the nonmoving party to establish "the mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position
. . .; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for
the [non-moving party]." Id. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. If the evidence in
favor of the non-moving party "is merely colorable, or is not
significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at
249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (internal citations omitted).
B. Defendant's Exemption 3 Argument
The gravamen of the defendant's argument centers on exemption 3 of the
FOIA statute. In essence, the defendant contends that exemption 3
prevents disclosure of "materials specifically exempted from disclosure by
statute" and, because Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) provides
that grand jury materials shall be secret, the defendant can ...