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Boyd v. Bureau of Alcohol

September 29, 2006

WILLIE E. BOYD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS, AND EXPLOSIVES, DEFENDANT.



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

Document Nos.: 17, 18

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff brings this action pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, to compel the defendant, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF" or "the agency"), to disclose various documents concerning the plaintiff's criminal investigative file and the agency's policies and procedures on confidential informants. This matter is before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Because the ATF conducted an adequate search for responsive records and because the ATF properly withheld information pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 3 and 7(C), the court grants the defendant's summary judgment motion in part. Because the ATF has not established the propriety of withholding information under Exemptions 2, 5, 7(D), 7(E), and 7(F), the court denies the defendant's motion in part without prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Request No. 05-336

In December 2004, the plaintiff submitted a request for information pursuant to the FOIA to the ATF for the following:

[A]ll records and information in [ATF] files . . . on the requester and Mary DeArmon, Albert Greer, Sharron Troupe, Muhammad Mateen, Stanley Boyd, Kenneth Boyd, Gerald Boyd, Jacqueline Boyd, Alonzo Wrickerson and Tommy Franklin. The requester is submitting these 10-Privacy Waivers, with Certificates of Identity. The 10-Privacy Waivers exclusively states [sic]: "I waive any and all privacy rights to records and information in [ATF] files 00-311, 00-1670 and 02-1078 in the ATF Investigative File 745519-97-0012 on Willie E. Boyd.

Compl., Ex. B (December 1, 2004 FOIA request). The file numbers mentioned in the request pertained to the plaintiff's "entire criminal investigative file [which] had been previously processed for release to him under the FOIA in ATF Disclosure Numbers 00-311, 00-1670, and 02-1078." Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot."), Graham Decl. ("Graham I Decl.") ¶ 4.*fn1 In addition, the plaintiff asked for "a full copy of Tape Conversation in the File No. 04-1132, which contained the conversations of Sharron Toupe, Muhammad Mateen and [the plaintiff]," which occurred on May 13, 1997.*fn2 Compl., Ex. B at 2. The ATF acknowledged receipt of the request, which had been assigned Request No. 05-336, by letter dated January 5, 2005. Compl. at 3.

With its initial response, the ATF released 12 pages pertaining to Disclosure File 00-311, after having redacted certain information pursuant Exemptions 7(C), 7(D), and 7(E). Compl. at 4; Graham I Decl. ¶ 13. The agency notified the plaintiff that it had not completed processing of Disclosure Files 00-1670 and 02-1078. Compl. at 4 & Ex. G (March 22, 2005 letter from M.R. LaBrie, Disclosure Specialist). The plaintiff challenged this response by filing an appeal (Appeal No. 05-1484) to the Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy ("OIP") on March 30, 2005.*fn3 Id. at 4; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), Ex. H (Appeal). OIP notified the plaintiff by letter dated July 12, 2005 that the agency closed the appeal because, by that time, he already had filed the instant civil action. Graham I Decl. ¶ 14.

In the meantime, the ATF continued to process Disclosure Files 00-1670 and 02-1078. Graham I Decl. ¶ 14. On September 15, 2005, it released another 51 pages of records. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. J (September 15, 2005 letter from M.R. LaBrie, Disclosure Specialist, regarding FOIA Case Files 00-311, 00-1670, 02-1078 and 04-1132); Graham I Decl. ¶¶ 14, 18. These records had been released to the plaintiff previously "with the names and identifying information of third parties withheld pursuant to [Exemption 7(C)]." Graham I Decl. ¶ 18. Having received the privacy waivers the plaintiff submitted, the ATF could release these records "this time with the previously redacted names and identifying information of the people who executed waivers included."*fn4 Id. Other information was withheld under Exemption 5. Id.

Three documents were withheld in their entirety pursuant to Exemptions 3, 7(C), 7(D), and 7(F).*fn5 Graham II Decl. ¶ 6. Review of these pages upon receipt of the third parties' privacy waivers did not yield any more segregable material. Id. In addition, the ATF withheld one sentence of a March 17, 1998 memorandum pursuant to Exemption 5. Id. ¶ 7; Def.'s Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Reply"), Attach. ("Chisholm II Decl.")*fn6 ¶ 10 & January 26, 2006 Vaughn index (Document No. 14).*fn7

B. Request No. 05-352

In December 2004, the plaintiff submitted another FOIA request to the ATF for the following:

[I]nformation and records regarding the policies and procedures of [ATF], on confidential sources and/or confidential informants, are those that provide information to the [ATF], according to statutory policies dictated by the agency.

Compl. at 2. The ATF responded on January 7, 2005 by releasing six pages of records which had been redacted pursuant to Exemption 7(C). Id. The plaintiff challenged this response by filing an administrative appeal to OIP. Id.; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. F (January 18, 2005 letter to R. Huff, Co-Director, OIP). OIP decided to release sixteen additional pages, after redacting portions pertaining to confidential informants pursuant to Exemptions 2, 6 and 7(E). Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. I (August 1, 2005 letter from R.L. Huff, Co-Director, OIP regarding Appeal No. 05-0949 with attachments); Graham I Decl. ¶ 6; Graham II Decl. ¶ 5. In all other respects, OIP affirmed the ATF's decision. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. I. After the plaintiff had filed the instant complaint, the ATF made a supplemental release of the Attorney General's Guidelines Regarding the Use of Confidential Informants (May 30, 2002), without redaction, on August 9, 2005. Graham I Decl. ¶ 7.

In this action, the plaintiff seeks the release of all responsive records in their entirety. He demands declaratory and ...


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