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Melville v. United States

October 12, 2006

CLAIRMONT MELVILLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Garrett Penn United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. Having considered defendants' motion, plaintiff's opposition, and the entire record, the Court will grant summary judgment for defendants.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, and challenges defendants' responses to his several requests for information pertaining to himself.

A. Criminal Division

In May 2002, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the Justice Department's Criminal Division ("Criminal Division") for information about himself. Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mot."), Declaration of Kathy Hsu ("Hsu Decl."), ¶ 4 & Ex. 1. The Criminal Division acknowledged receipt of the request, which was assigned Request No. CRM-2002414P, by letter dated June 12, 2002. Id., Ex. 2. With this letter, the Criminal Division instructed plaintiff to submit a "Privacy Act Identification and Request Form" and a "Criminal Division Privacy Act System of Records" form. Id. Upon receipt of these completed forms, the Criminal Division would assign a new request number and proceed with its processing. Id.

Plaintiff submitted a completed "Privacy Act Identification and Request Form" on June 20, 2002. Hsu Decl. ¶ 6 & Ex. 3. The Criminal Division confirmed its receipt by letter dated August 16, 2002. Id. ¶ 7 & Ex. 4. This request was assigned Request No. CRM-200200658P. Id.

Because plaintiff had not indicated which system of records he wanted the Criminal Division to search, Criminal Division staff limited the search to the Central Criminal Division Index File and Associated Records System (JUSTICE/CRM-001). Hsu Decl. ¶¶ 8, 12. The search yielded only an index reference in the name of plaintiff's co-defendant (D.J. file no. 12-58-338, index date 1-5-1993). Id. ¶¶ 8, 12. It was determined that the file was lost. Id. ¶ 8. The Criminal Division notified plaintiff of this result by letter dated February 11, 2003. Id. ¶ 8 & Ex. 5. Its decision was affirmed on administrative appeal to the Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy ("OIP"). Id. ¶ 10 & Ex. 7.

B. Drug Enforcement Administration

In June 2002, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") for information about himself. Defs.' Mot., Declaration of William C. Little, Jr. ("Little Decl."), ¶ 13 & Ex. A. The DEA confirmed receipt of plaintiff's perfected request, which had been assigned Request No. 02-1518-P, by letter dated August 23, 2002. Id. ¶ 16 & Ex. C. On August 27, 2002, the DEA notified plaintiff that it located no records responsive to his request. Id. ¶ 17 & Ex. D. Although plaintiff was informed of his right to appeal this decision, OIP has not received an appeal. Id. ¶ 18.

C. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

The Disclosure Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("BATFE") received plaintiff's FOIA request for information about himself on May 29, 2002. Defs.' Mot., Declaration of Averill P. Graham ("Graham Decl.") ¶ 7.*fn1 By letter dated May 31, 2002, the BATFE notified plaintiff that it had located no records responsive to his request. Id. ¶

8. Although plaintiff was informed of his right to appeal this decision, he did not do so. Id. ¶ 10.

D. Federal Bureau of Investigation

In June 1995, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington, D.C. headquarters ("FBIHQ") for information about himself. Defs.' Mot., Declaration of David M. Hardy ("Hardy Decl.") ¶ 5 & Ex. A. By letter dated July 11, 1995, FBIHQ notified plaintiff that a search of its Central Records System yielded no responsive records. Id. ¶ 6 & Ex. B. Although plaintiff was informed of his right to appeal this decision, OIP has not received an appeal. Id. ¶ 8.

E. Executive Office for United States Attorneys

In March 2003, plaintiff submitted a request for information about himself to the Executive Office for United States Attorneys ("EOUSA"). Defs.' Mot., Declaration of John F. Boseker ("Boseker Decl.') ¶ 6 & Ex. A. Plaintiff indicated that responsive records likely were maintained by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio ("USAO/SDOH"). Id., Ex. A at 2. The EOUSA acknowledge receipt of the request, assigned Request No. 03-1042, by letter dated April 15, 2003. Id., ¶ 7 & Ex. B.

On February 4, 2004, the EOUSA released 37 pages of records in full, released 16 pages in part, and withheld 48 pages in full. Boseker Decl. ¶ 8 & Ex. C. With the instant motion, the EOUSA released in full two additional pages of records. See Defs.' Mot., Ex. 9. Plaintiff appealed this decision to OIP. Id. ¶ 13 & Ex. E. OIP affirmed the EOUSA's decision, and so notified plaintiff by letter dated August 10, 2004. Id. ¶ 14 & Ex. F.

F. National Archives and Records Administration

Plaintiff alleged that he "moved the various agencies, [including] the National Archives, for release of any and all pertinent documents related to him and the subjects involved" in criminal case numbers CR-2-91-023 and CR-2-91-007 before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Compl., ¶ 5. In support of this allegation, he produced copies of correspondence with the National Archives' College Park, Maryland facility and its Great Lakes Region office in Chicago, Illinois. See Plaintiff's Answer to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp."), Attach. By letter dated March 4, 2002, the College Park office notified plaintiff that the federal courts, where the court records he sought are maintained, are not subject to the FOIA. Id., Attach. (March 4, 2002 letter from J.R. Mathis, FOIA Assistant, Office of General Counsel). Although the Archives did not consider this response a denial, the letter informed plaintiff of his right to appeal the decision by contacting the Deputy Archivist at an address provided in the letter. Id. Evidently plaintiff did not pursue an appeal.

Plaintiff next submitted a request to the National Archives' Great Lakes Region office for information pertaining to the same two criminal cases. Pl.'s Opp., Attach. (April 12, 2002 letter). Because his request did not specify that it was a FOIA request, the Archives treated it as it would treat any other request for federal records. See Defendants' Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Reply"), Ex. 10 (December 19, 2005 letter from S.B. Rudgers, Asst. Gen. Counsel). Hence, the Great Lakes Region office had no ...


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