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Kurdyukov v. United States

September 29, 2009

SERGIY KURDYUKOV, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES COAST GUARD, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on the United States Coast Guard's renewed motion for summary judgment. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Renewed Mem."). For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

In December 2006, the plaintiff submitted a request to the United States Coast Guard ("Coast Guard") under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2006), for the following information:

(1) All the documents from the Government of Panama authorizing the U.S. Coast Guard to stop[,] board and search the M/V CHINA BREEZE.

(2) All the documents from the Government of Panama authorizing the U.S. Coast Guard to detain the M/V[] CHINA BREEZE on behalf of the Government of Panama.

(3) All the documents from the Government of Panama authorizing the U.S. Coast Guard to remain on board the M/V CHINA BREEZE and escort the vessel to a U.S. port to conduct a dockside boarding.

(4) All the documents showing the authorization from the Government of Panama to transfer its jurisdiction for prosecution to the United States when the M/V CHINA BREEZE entered U.S. waters.

Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mem."),*fn1 Declaration of Joseph Kramek ("Kramek Decl."), Attachment ("Attach.") A (December 27, 2006 Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request) at 1. Among the responsive records was a four-page Intelligence Information Report ("IIR") maintained by the Coast Guard Intelligence Coordination Center. Def.'s Mem., Declaration of Marty J. Martinez ¶ 4. The IIR "contain[ed] information relating to a drug interdiction and seizure of the M/V China Breeze motor vessel on May 27, 1999[,]" which included such items as "vessel information, personnel aboard and arrested data, photograph data, and information relative to the type and amount of drugs seized, and involved entities." Id.; see id., Kramek Decl. ¶¶ 17, 19; see also id., Attach. G (redacted Information Report of CHINA BREEZE boarding and cocaine seizure) & Vaughn Index (Doc. No. 4). The Coast Guard released this report in part, redacting information under Exemptions 2, 6, and 7. Id., Kramek Decl. ¶ 19. Because the Coast Guard did not establish that its decision to withhold information under Exemptions 2 and 7 was proper, the Court denied its first summary judgment motion. Kurdyukov v. U.S. Coast Guard, 578 F. Supp. 2d 114, 129 (D.D.C. 2008). The Court deferred its ruling on the Coast Guard's decision to redact the names of government and non-government employees mentioned in the IIR until such time as the agency filed a renewed summary judgment motion. Id. at 127 n.7.

Now before the Court is the Coast Guard's renewed motion for summary judgment and the Supplemental Vaughn Index to the Declaration of Lieutenant Commander Joseph Kramek ("Supp. Index"). The Supplemental Vaughn Index addresses the deficiencies of the Coast Guard's initial dispositive motion, declarations and Vaughn Index by setting forth the agency's reasons for withholding information from the IIR under Exemptions 2, 6, 7(C), and 7(E) of the FOIA.*fn2

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits or declarations, 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 the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). However, factual assertions in the moving party's affidavits may be accepted as true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits or declarations 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 they 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). 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 ...


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