The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge.
GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") case comes before the court
upon the defendants' motion for summary judgment. See 5 U.S.C. § 552.
Donald Joyce ("the plaintiff" or "Mr. Joyce"), a prisoner, seeks to
compel the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") to produce copies of
"all finger print cards and arrest records" concerning him. Mr. Joyce
claims that the FBI has unlawfully withheld these documents, despite his
requests. Under Title 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), the court has the
authority to review civil actions
in which a prisoner seeks redress from
a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).
After the court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss Mr. Joyce's
FOIA claim, the FBI filed a motion for summary judgment. Pursuant to the
court's order dated August 22, 2000, the defendants included a
declaration from Scott A. Hodes, an FBI Attorney-Advisor, describing in
sufficient detail the search for responsive records and all information
withheld, including the basis for each withholding, as required by Vaughn
v. Rosen, 523 F.2d 1136 (D.C. Cir. 1975). As per the court's order, the
defendants stipulated that there is no segregable information*fn1 in the
withheld material. The defendants argue that the FBI has conducted a
reasonable search and has provided all non-exempt, segregable information
to Mr. Joyce. For the following reasons, the court will grant the
defendants' motion for summary judgment.
On March 2, 1995, Mr. Joyce filed his complaint, in which he asked the
court to issue an order requiring the FBI to produce copies of "all
finger print cards and arrest records" that he claimed to have sought in
FOIA requests to the FBI. See Compl. at 1. On June 13, 1996, this court
granted the FBI's motion to stay all proceedings in this case pursuant to
Open America v. Watergate Special Prosecution Force, 547 F.2d 605, 616
(D.C. Cir. 1976) (allowing an extension of time to process a FOIA request
when the agency can show that it is exercising due diligence in
processing the request, but needs additional time because of a lack of
resources), and ordered the FBI to submit a declaration under Vaughn v.
Rosen, 523 F.2d 1136, 1146 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (requiring a detailed
description of the search for responsive records and all information
withheld, including the basis for each withholding or redaction).
On January 13, 1997, the FBI submitted a declaration from J. Kevin
O'Brien, an FBI Supervisory Special Agent, setting forth the parameters
of the search for documents responsive to the plaintiff's FOIA request
and the basis for withholdings from those documents pursuant to FOIA
exemptions. See O'Brien Decl. at 7, 9-14. Mr. O'Brien's declaration
stated that the FBI had found 12 responsive pages and provided all 12
pages to the plaintiff, with only minor redactions pursuant to FOIA
exemption 7(c). See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(c) (allowing redaction of
records or information compiled for law-enforcement purposes to the
extent that disclosure of such information could reasonably be expected
to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy).
In September 1998, with leave of the court, the plaintiff filed an
amended complaint adding the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the
Philadelphia Police Department, and the Philadelphia District Attorney's
Office as defendants. See First Am. Compl. at 1. On August 24, 1999, Mr.
Joyce filed a second amended complaint, adding several individual FBI
agents as defendants (collectively with the FBI, "the federal
defendants"). In addition, Mr. Joyce alleged that as a result of this
suit, the parole board retaliated against him by denying parole. See
Second Am. Compl. ¶ 2, 3. Furthermore, Mr. Joyce claimed additional
and constitutional violations. See Second Am. Compl. at 1,
In March 2000, the federal defendants moved to dismiss the second
amended complaint, arguing that it failed to allege that the FBI had
improperly withheld nonexempt material from Mr. Joyce, and that the
remaining added allegations do not relate to the federal defendants. See
Mot. to Dismiss at 1, 2, 7-13. On August 22, 2000, the court granted in
part and denied in part the federal defendants' motion to dismiss.
Specifically, the court dismissed the newly raised claims in the second
amended complaint. See Mem. Op. dated 8/22/00 at 2. The court, however,
did not dismiss the plaintiff's original FOIA claim. See id. In
addition, the court ordered the federal defendants to file a motion for
summary judgment regarding the original FOIA claim by September 29,
2000. See id. Moreover, the court directed the federal defendants to
attach declarations describing in sufficient detail the search for
responsive records and all information withheld, including the basis for
each withholding, as per Vaughn v. Rosen, 523 F.2d 1136 (D.C. Cir.
1975). See id. at 7. The court also ordered the federal defendants to
include a statement regarding the segregability of each record as per
Kimberlin v. Department of Justice, 139 F.3d 944, 950 (D.C. Cir. 1998),
which requires that a Vaughn index identify with specificity which
information may be disclosed and which may be withheld. See id.
In response to the order issued by this court, the plaintiff appealed
to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit. The D.C. Circuit declined to review this court's order,
indicating that "non-final" orders are not subject to appellate review.
See D.C. Cir. Order, Dkt. No. 00-5333 (Sept. Term, 2000).
On September 29, 2000, the federal defendants filed a motion for
summary judgment. The federal defendants included a declaration from Mr.
Scott A. Hodes, an FBI Attorney-Advisor and Acting Chief in the
Litigation Unit, Freedom of Information-Privacy Acts Section in the
Office of Public and Congressional Affairs at FBI Headquarters in
Washington, D.C. Mr. Hodes' declaration largely reiterates the O'Brien
declaration. See Decl. of Scott A. Hodes dated 9/21/00 ("Hodes Decl.").
The declaration indicates that the names of a local law-enforcement
officer and an FBI Special Agent are the only pieces of information that
continue to be withheld from Mr. Joyce. See id. at 3. Mr. Hodes maintains
that this information falls within the exemption provided by
5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(c). See id. Furthermore, Mr. Hodes contends that
"there is no segregable information in the withheld material." See id.