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Ruston v. Dep't of Justice

March 15, 2007

LESTER JON RUSTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, DEFENDANT.



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

Document Nos.: 12, 19

MEMORANDUM OPINION*fn1

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

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff seeks to compel the defendant to disclose four documents regarding his psychological examinations by the defendant. Because the defendant's search for documents was adequate and because the defendant establishes that the names of third parties are properly withheld under Exemption 7(C), the court grants the defendant's motion in part. Because Exemption 4 may protect Document 1 from disclosure, the court declines to require the defendant to disclose the document at this juncture. Last, the court denies the defendant's motion for summary judgment in part because the doctor's notes are not protected from disclosure under Exemptions 5 or 7(F) and because the defendant has not shown that it released all reasonably segregable information in Documents 2-4.

II. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff submitted a request for information to the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552. Compl. ¶ 4. Specifically, he sought:

all documents in the possession of the B.O.P. regarding a psychological examination of [the plaintiff] by a B.O.P. staff Psychologist named Dr. Maureen [Burris] of the MDC-Los Angeles, which occurred beginning in November of 2004 through April of 2005.

Mem. of P.& A. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot."), Ex. A ("Kosiak Decl.") ¶ 4 & Attach. 1 (June 2, 2005 FOIA Request Letter, assigned Request No. 2005-06378). The plaintiff stated that he did "not need a copy of her 'examination,' just her handwritten notes and all documents in the possession of [BOP] regarding dates, times and calendars of all meetings with [the plaintiff]." Id., Attach. 1. BOP released two documents, and withheld four documents in full under Exemptions 2, 5, 7(C), and 7(F). Id. ¶¶ 10, 14 & Attach. 7 (August 5, 2005 letter from D. Kosiak, Regional Counsel, North Central Regional Office, BOP). BOP's initial response was affirmed on administrative appeal. Id. ¶ 12 & Attach. 9 (December 21, 2005 letter from M.A. Pustay, Deputy Director, Office of Information and Privacy, Department of Justice). The plaintiff subsequently filed suit in this court, demanding, inter alia, full release of the four withheld documents.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Standard

The court grants a motion for summary judgment if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Factual assertions in the moving party's affidavits may be accepted as true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits or documentary evidence to the contrary. Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

In a FOIA case, the court may grant summary judgment based on the information provided in affidavits or declarations when the affidavits or declarations describe "the documents and the justifications for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail, demonstrate that the information withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the record nor by evidence of agency bad faith."*fn2 Military Audit Project v. Casey, 656 F.2d 724, 738 (D.C. Cir. 1981). 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 ...


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