Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Campbell v. United States Department of Justice

June 20, 2002

JAMES CAMPBELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos. 152, 154, 159

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL RECONSIDERATION; DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND THE JUDGMENT; DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

The D.C. Circuit reviewed and remanded this 13-year-old Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") case after providing the applicable guidelines in evaluating the national security justifications under FOIA's exemption 1, codified as 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1). Campbell v. United States Dep't of Justice, 164 F.3d 20 (D.C. Cir. 1998). After applying the guidelines set forth in the D.C. Circuit's decision, this court issued a Memorandum Opinion and supplemental order on September 28, 2001 denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment. As part of that ruling, the court also granted the plaintiff's motion for limited discovery as to the location and contents of the disputed tickler files to assist the plaintiff and this court in gauging the adequacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's ("FBI") search. The matter now comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion for partial reconsideration *fn1 of the court's September 28, 2001 Memorandum Opinion and supplemental order, the defendant's motion to alter or amend that same judgment, and the defendant's motion for a protective order staying the limited discovery allowed by the court. After considering the parties' submissions, the applicable law, and the substantial record herein, the court denies the plaintiff's and the defendant's respective motions.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

The facts giving rise to the plaintiff's claims are set forth in the D.C. Circuit's opinion, which reversed this court's decision denying the plaintiff's claims. Campbell, 164 F.3d 20. The plaintiff is a journalist and author commissioned by two London publishers to write a biography about the 1960s writer and civil-rights activist James Baldwin. Compl. ¶ 4. On May 10, 1988, in the course of conducting his research, the plaintiff filed a FOIA request with the FBI's New York office seeking to obtain the FBI's "file" pertaining to James Baldwin. Id. Shortly thereafter, the FBI informed the plaintiff that his request was being forwarded to FBI headquarters for processing. Id. ¶ 5. Because of the sheer number of responsive documents combined with the overall number of FOIA requests, the FBI notified the plaintiff in September 1988 that his request would be dealt with in the order that it was received and that the FBI denied the plaintiff's request for expedited treatment. Id. ¶¶ 9-11. Following a flurry of written correspondence and the release of relatively few documents, the plaintiff filed his initial complaint on November 2, 1989, seeking to compel the FBI to expedite his request for the documents. Id. ¶¶ 1, 3. The defendant, the U.S. Department of Justice, represents the FBI in this action.

B. Procedural History

1. The Plaintiff's Initial Complaint and Proceedings

After the plaintiff's initial filing, Judge Pratt denied the plaintiff's request for expedited review and required the FBI to file a status report updating its progress as to its search for documents responsive to the plaintiff's request. Order dated Dec. 14, 1989 (Pratt, J.). That same day, the FBI released about 1,000 documents that were responsive to the plaintiff's request. Campbell v. United States Dep't of Justice, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14996, at *4, 1996 WL 554511, at *1 (D.D.C. 1996). On March 13, 1990, both the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") released more documents relevant to the plaintiff's request. Id. at *5, *1. Over the course of the next several years, Judge Pratt issued multiple stays giving the government more time to conduct reviews of withheld documents in light of new Supreme Court precedent and Executive Agency Guidelines. *fn2 Id. As a result of these reviews, the defendant declassified and released more documents to the plaintiff. Id. at *6, *1. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in August 1990 and the plaintiff filed his motion for summary judgment in February 1995. In October 1995, the case was transferred to the below-signed member of this court. In June 1996, the parties filed their final briefings on the cross-motions for summary judgment and the case became ripe for decision.

This court initially granted in part and denied in part without prejudice the defendant's motion for summary judgment and granted in part and denied in part without prejudice the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Id. The court also ordered an in camera review of certain documents to determine the applicability of FOIA exemption 7(E), which affords protection to information that "would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions . . . ." Id; 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E). Subsequently, the court granted in part the remainder of the defendant's summary judgment motion. Order dated Aug. 6, 1997.

2. The Appeal, Remand, and Subsequent Ruling on the Parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment

As previously stated, the plaintiff appealed the court's ruling on the summary judgment motions to the D.C. Circuit. The plaintiff argued that the FBI's search for documents responsive to his request was inadequate and that the documented support invoking the FOIA exemptions was "insufficiently detailed to establish the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact." Campbell, 164 F.3d at 26. The D.C. Circuit agreed with the plaintiff and reversed and remanded the case back to this court with directions to the FBI to search the electronic surveillance index ("ELSUR") *fn3 and tickler files *fn4 and to justify with sufficient detail its decisions to withhold information pursuant to FOIA exemptions 1, *fn5 7(C), *fn6 and 7(D), *fn7 codified respectively as 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(1), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(D). Id. at 36.

Cognizant of the mandate and standards established by the Court of Appeals, the FBI reevaluated its documents, conducted new searches and subsequently filed a new motion for summary judgment. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 1. The new motion asserted that the FBI had complied in full with the standards as directed by the D.C. Circuit. Id. The plaintiff filed an opposition claiming that the FBI had still failed to conduct an adequate search and disputing many of the exemptions claimed by the government. See generally Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. With cross-motions for summary judgment filed, a declaration provided by the FBI's FOIA officer, Scott Hodes ("Mr. Hodes"), along with a Vaughn Index, this court oversaw the remand ordered by the D.C. Circuit and determined whether compliance with that remand order had been achieved by the defendant.

In doing so, the court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment with respect to FOIA exemptions 7, 7(C), and 7(D) because the court concluded that the defendant satisfied the D.C. Circuit's directives respecting those exemptions. Mem. Op. dated Sept. 28, 2001 at 15-24. The court, however, was not persuaded by the adequacy of the defendant's search or its withholding of files pursuant to exemption 1, and it denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment on that count. Id. at 7-14. Accordingly, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to the adequacy of the search and the defendant's reliance on exemption 1 but denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in all other respects. Id. In granting the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to the adequacy of the search, the court also allowed the plaintiff to conduct limited discovery as to the location and contents of the disputed tickler files. Id. at 10. In addition, in an October 4, 2001 order, this court directed the defendant to show cause as to why the defendant failed to comply with the D.C. Circuit's mandate in this case. See Order dated Oct. 4, 2001 ("Show Cause Order"). The defendant filed its response to the court's show cause order on October 16, 2001, contemporaneously with its pending motion to alter or amend the judgment. The plaintiff also filed his "motion for partial reconsideration" on October 16, 2001. *fn8 In his motion, the plaintiff requests the court to alter its decision granting summary judgment to the defendant for FOIA exemption 7(C), which allows the defendant in some circumstances to withhold information that may result in the invasion of an individual's privacy. Pl.'s Mot. for Recons.

The defendant, in turn, asks the court to alter or amend its decision granting the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to the adequacy of the defendant's search for the location and contents of tickler files and the allowance of limited discovery for those files. Def.'s Mot. to Alter or Amend J. ("Def.'s Mot.") at 1-3. In that regard, the defendant requests that the court reverse its decision denying that portion of the defendant's motion for summary judgment regarding exemption 1, which allows non-disclosure of certain documents for the purpose of national security. Id. at 3-8; 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1). In addition, on November 5, 2001, the defendant filed a motion for a protective order staying the court's prescribed limited discovery pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c). *fn9 Def.'s Mot. for Protective Order ("Def.'s Prot. Mot."). For the reasons that follow, the court denies the plaintiff's and the defendant's motions.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standards of Review

1. Legal Standard for Altering or Amending an Interlocutory Judgment

A district court may revise its own interlocutory decisions "at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties." FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b); see also Childers v. Slater, 197 F.R.D. 185, 190 (D.D.C. 2000) (citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)'s Advisory Committee Notes). This court notes that the standard of review for interlocutory decisions differs from the standards applied to final judgments under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). Compare Muwekma Tribe v. Babbitt, 133 F. Supp. 2d 42, 48 n.6 (D.D.C. 2001) and United Mine Workers v. Pittson Co., 793 F. Supp. 339, 345 (D.D.C. 1992) (Hogan, J.) with LaRouche v. Dep't of Treasury, 112 F. Supp. 2d 48, 51-52 (D.D.C. 2000) (Lamberth, J.) and Harvey v. District of Columbia, 949 F. Supp. 878, 879 (D.D.C. 1996) (Richey, J.). A motion pursuant to 59(e), to alter or amend a judgment after its entry, is not routinely granted. Harvey, 949 F. Supp. at 879. The primary reasons for altering or amending a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) are an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Id.; Firestone v. Firestone, 76 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.