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Elliott v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

May 1, 2007

DAMON ELLIOTT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Court has reviewed the motion, plaintiff's opposition, and the record of this case, and will grant summary judgment for defendant.

I. BACKGROUND

A. FOIPA Number 0944088

In May 2001, plaintiff submitted a request for information to the Washington, D.C. Headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBIHQ") under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), see 5 U.S.C. § 552. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot."), Declaration of David M. Hardy ("Hardy Decl.") ¶ 5 & Exhibit ("Ex.") A (May 17, 2001 request). Plaintiff sought a copy of all papers pertaining to the following: (1) F.B.I. File No. 95A-HQ-1214942, (2) Lab No. 70521022 S GX F1FY HJ, and (3) Criminal No. 90-0244.*fn1 Id. FBIHQ staff reviewed 124 pages of records (including a cover page) and released 116 pages in part after having redacted certain information under Exemption 7(C).*fn2 Id. ¶ 7 & Ex. C (August 31, 2001 letter from J.M. Kelso, Jr., Section Chief, Freedom of Information-Privacy Acts Section, Office of Public and Congressional Affairs, FBIHQ). FBIHQ's decision was affirmed on administrative appeal. Id. ¶¶ 8-11 & Ex. G (July 9, 2002 letter from R.L. Huff, Co-Director, Office of Information and Privacy, United States Department of Justice, regarding Appeal No. 01-3638).

B. Request Number GR 02-128

In February 2001, plaintiff requested from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys ("EOUSA"), United States Department of Justice, all information in its records about himself and any exhibits in his criminal case, No. PJM 97-053, prosecuted in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Hardy Decl. ¶ 12 & Ex. H (February 8, 2001 FOIA request and attachment). The EOUSA's search for responsive records located six pages that had originated with the FBI, and staff forwarded these pages to FBIHQ for processing. Id. ¶ 13 & Ex. I (December 3, 2002 letter from M.A. O'Rourke, Assistant Director, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Unit, EOUSA). FBIHQ released these six pages in part after having redacted certain information under Exemptions 2 and 7(C). Id. ¶ 14 & Ex. J (July 23, 2003 letter from D.H. Hardy, Section Chief, Record/Information Dissemination Section, Records Management Division).

In this action, plaintiff demands that the FBI "disclose a copy of the complete file to 95A HQ 1214942, F.O.I.A. No. 0944088-000" and "disclose the complete file to Request No.: GR 02 128." Compl. at 2 (emphasis in original) (page numbers designated by the Court).

II. DISCUSSION

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." Military Audit Project v. Casey, 656 F.2d 724, 738 (D.C. Cir. 1981).*fn3 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.'" SafeCard Servs., Inc. v. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (quoting Ground Saucer Watch, Inc. v. Central Intelligence Agency, 692 F.2d 770, 771 (D.C. Cir. 1981)).

B. Adequacy of Search

"An agency fulfills its obligations under FOIA if it can demonstrate beyond material doubt that its search was 'reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.'" ValenciaLucena v. United States Coast Guard, 180 F.3d 321, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (quoting Truitt v. Dep't of State, 897 F.2d 540, 542 (D.C. Cir. 1990)); see Campbell v. United States Dep't of Justice, 164 F.3d 20, 27 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (FOIA requires agency to conduct search using methods reasonably expected to produce requested information). The agency bears the burden of showing that its search was calculated to uncover all relevant documents. Steinberg v. United States Dep't of Justice, 23 F.3d 548, 551 (D.C. Cir. 1994). To meet its burden, the agency may submit affidavits or declarations that explain in reasonable detail the scope and method of the agency's search. Perry v. Block, 684 F.2d 121 (D.C. Cir. 1982). In the absence of contrary evidence, such affidavits or ...


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