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Banks v. Dep't of Justice

March 26, 2010

FREDERICK BANKS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff filed a ten-count Complaint under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Privacy Act, see 5 U.S.C. § 552a, against various government entities, alleging their failure to release requested information about himself, other individuals, and corporate entities. This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's FOIA claims against the United States Postal Investigation Service ("USPIS") (Counts Five and Six) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") (Counts Nine and Ten). The Court will deny the motions without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

A. United States Postal Investigation Service (Counts Five and Six)

According to the Complaint, "[p]laintiff[] propounded a renewed request to the [USPIS] under the [FOIA]," Compl. ¶ 13, and the USPIS "did not provide the requested records." Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff neither specified a particular request by tracking number, nor indicated the date on which he submitted the request. See id.

According to the USPIS, between 2005 and 2009, plaintiff submitted seven FOIA requests, three of which are relevant to this action. See Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss and for Summ. J. [Dkt. #54], Ex. B ("Baxter Decl.") [Dkt. #54-3] ¶ 4. These three requests were dated December 28, 2004, July 11, 2005, and March 19, 2006, and the USPIS assigned each a separate tracking number. Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 11 and 14.

The Court already has granted summary judgment in the USPIS' favor with respect to the March 19, 2006 request (FOIA No. 2006-FPIS-00167), which the agency received on March 24, 2006. Banks v. Dep't of Justice, 538 F. Supp. 2d 228, 234-35 (D.D.C. 2008). Remaining for this Court's resolution, then, are the adequacy of the USPIS' search for records responsive to plaintiff's December 28, 2004, and July 11, 2005, FOIA requests (respectively, FOIA Nos. 2005-FPIS-00020 and 2005-FPIS-00180), and the agency's justification for withholding certain information under Exemptions 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7. See id.; Banks v. Dep't of Justice, 605 F. Supp. 2d 131, 142 (D.D.C. 2009).

B. Federal Bureau of Prisons (Counts Nine and Ten)

The Court already has concluded that the BOP's search for records responsive to plaintiff's FOIA request was adequate and reasonable under the circumstances. See Banks, 605 F. Supp. at 140. Missing from the record at that time was an explanation for the agency's decision to withhold in full "four pages of records found in plaintiff's Central and Medical Files" under FOIA Exemptions 5, 6, 7(C), and 7(F). Id. For this reason, the Court denied summary judgment without prejudice as to Counts Nine and Ten. Id.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment in a FOIA Case

The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant 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, 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 these submissions 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.'" ...


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