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Wiggins v. National Credit Union Administration

January 30, 2007

RONALD WIGGINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL CREDIT UNION ADMINISTRATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. §552. He is challenging the disposition of his records requests by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys ("EOUSA"). Defendants FBI and EOUSA have filed a motion for summary judgment and plaintiff has opposed the motion.*fn1 Because the record demonstrates that the agencies complied with FOIA, defendants' motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Federal Bureau of Investigation

On August 28, 2005, Mr. Wiggins sent a FOIA request to FBI headquarters ("FBIHQ") for all recordspertaining to himself and a third party, Barry Brady. Decl. of Peggy L. Bellando ¶ 5 & Exh. A. In a letter dated November 28, 2005, FBIHQ informed plaintiff that a search of its central records systems files did not yield any records responsive to his request. Id. ¶ 6 & Exh. B. Plaintiff was also advised that the search did not include FBI field offices, and that if he believed any office had records he sought, he must file a request with that office. Id. ¶ 16, citing 28 C.F.R. § 16.3(a) and § 16.41(a).

On December 12, 2005, plaintiff appealed the FBI's response to his request to the Office of Information and Privacy. Id. ¶ 7 & Exh. C. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in this case adding the FBI and EOUSA as defendants on March, 10, 2006.

Plaintiff also requested copies of regulations applicable to the FBI's statutory duties under FOIA and the Privacy Act. Decl. of Peggy L. Bellando ¶ 5 & Exh. A. By letter dated October 4, 2006, FBIHQ provided plaintiff with information about accessing the FBI's FOIA/Privacy Act manual. Decl. of David M. Hardy ¶ 7 & Exh. A. Plaintiff was informed that he could view the manual on the agency's website, or purchase a CD-ROM or paper copy. Id. Plaintiff did not respond to this letter. Id. ¶ 7.

The FBI did not provide plaintiff with information about Barry Brady because a third party's records are protected by the Privacy Act, and such a request will not be processed by the FBI without either an authorization from the third party or proof of his death. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10. The FBI asserted that it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of records pertaining to Mr. Brady, but that if such records existed, they would be exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Id. ¶¶ 10-13.

Executive Office for United States Attorneys

On July 25, 2005, plaintiff sent a request to EOUSA for public records regarding the prosecution of plaintiff in the Central District of Illinois, including pre-trial and sentencing transcripts, and the presentence investigation report. Decl. of David Luczynski ¶ 4 & Exh. A. In response to the request, EOUSA released to plaintiff 10 pages of documents in full and 347 pages in part. Id. ¶ 6 & Exh. C. EOUSA withheld portions of the records pursuant to FOIA Exemption 7(C). Id.

After receiving plaintiff's opposition to defendants' summary judgment motion, EOUSA conducted a supplemental search and received 292 pages of records from the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of Illinois. Supp. Decl. of David Luczynski ¶ 2. On November 27, 2006, EOUSA released to plaintiff 59 pages in full, 86 pages in part, and withheld in full 23 pages. Id. ¶ 3 & Exh. A.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Tao v. Freeh, 27 F.3d 635, 638 (D.C.Cir. 1994).

In considering whether there is a triable issue of fact, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The party opposing a motion for summary judgment, however, "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."

Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party must do more than simply "show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Moreover, any factual assertions in the movant's affidavits will be accepted as being true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the assertion. Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir.1992).

In a FOIA case, the court may award summary judgment solely on the basis of information provided by the department or agency in affidavits or declarations. Military Audit Project v. Casey, 656 F.2d 724, 738 (D.C.Cir. 1981); see also Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820, 826-28 (D.C. Cir. 1973). Agency affidavits or declarations must be "relatively detailed and non-conclusory . . ." SafeCard Services v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200 (D.C.Cir. 1991). Such affidavits or declarations are accorded "a presumption of good faith, which cannot be rebutted by purely speculative claims about the existence and discoverability of other documents." Id. (internal citation and quotation omitted). An agency must demonstrate that "each document that falls within the class requested either has been ...


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