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Boyd v. Executive Office for United States Attorneys

September 28, 2010

WILLIE E. BOYD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS, 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 defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, summary judgment will be granted for the defendant.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff brings this action against the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"), Executive Office for United States Attorneys ("EOUSA"), under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, alleging that the EOUSA has failed to release certain public records pertaining to a government informant, Bryant Troupe. Complaint for Declaratory Injunctive Relief Pertaining to the Records on Bryant Troupe, Government Informant ("Compl.") at 1-2. In relevant part, the plaintiff's FOIA request read as follows:

This is a formal request for all public records in the possession of the Government, pursuant to the direct [sic] of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in case Boyd v. Criminal Div. of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, 475 F.3d 381, 390 (D.C. Cir. 2007), decided February 6, 2007[]. W[h]ere the Court stated:

We need not address Amicus's contention that the Government is nonetheless required to disclose the same information that was officially disclosed in the Miller case . . . because the Attorney's Office advised Boyd that, upon request, it would provide him with all public information concerning Troupe in its possession.

Compl., Appendix ("App.") D (June 27, 2007 letter from the plaintiff to Suzanne Little, Assistant Director, FOIA/Privacy Unit, EOUSA). The case to which the plaintiff refers arose from FOIA requests he submitted "[f]ollowing his conviction of drugs and weapons charges . . . in an attempt to uncover alleged violations of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 86 (1963), during his trial." Boyd v. Crim. Div. of the U.S. Dep't of Justice, 475 F.3d 381, 384 (D.C. Cir. 2007); see United States v. Boyd, 180 F.3d 967 (8th Cir. 1999) (affirming the plaintiff's criminal convictions). The plaintiff opines that information pertaining to Troupe, who had been a government informant and had sold drugs, see Miller v. United States, 135 F.3d 1254, 1255-56 (8th Cir. 1998), "could have been used to support Boyd's defense that the gun and drugs found in the closet belonged to Troupe[, not the plaintiff,] and to suggest that the government may have failed to investigate that possibility because it had an interest in not jeopardizing convictions that Troupe, acting as an informant, had helped to obtain, was withheld from Boyd during his criminal trial in violation of Brady." Boyd, 475 F.3d at 384.

The EOUSA acknowledged receipt of the plaintiff's FOIA request on August 3, 2007, which was assigned Request Number ("No.") 07-2467. Compl. at 3; see id., App. E (Letter to the plaintiff from William G. Stewart II, Assistant Director, Freedom of Information & Privacy Staff, EOUSA). Due to a large number of requests then pending before the EOUSA, the limited resources it had to process the requests, and the EOUSA's practice of processing requests on a "first-in-first-out" basis, on November 20, 2007, the EOUSA advised the plaintiff in response to his inquiry as to the status of his request that it had not yet been processed. See id., App. G (Letter from W.G. Stewart). Then, on June 27, 2008, the EOUSA informed the plaintiff that no records responsive to his request had been located at the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. Id., Ex. I (Letter from W.G. Stewart).

The plaintiff subsequently filed an administrative appeal of the EOUSA's response to his FOIA request to the DOJ's Office of Information and Privacy ("OIP"). Compl. at 3. He accused the government of acting in bad faith, asserting that "it kn[ew] or should have known the documents requested on Bryant Troupe are records that would be found in the [United States Attorney's Office for] the Eastern District of Missouri." Id., Ex. J (July 8, 2008 letter to Richard Huff, Co-Director, OIP) at 1. In light of the plaintiff's appeal, the EOUSA reopened the plaintiff's case, see Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mem."), Declaration ("Decl.") of John W. Kornmeier ("Kornmeier Decl."), Exhibit ("Ex.") D (September 23, 2008 letter from Janice Galli McLeod, Associate Director, OIP), which was then assigned Request No. 08-3281, and forwarded it to the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri ("USAO/MOE"). Id., Kornmeier Decl. ¶ 9. The USAO/MOE found one responsive record, id., Decl. of Karen S. Schroeder ("Schroeder Decl.") ¶ 12, which the EOUSA released to the plaintiff in full, id., Kornmeier Decl. ¶ 13.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment in a FOIA

Case Courts will grant summary judgment if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, together with any affidavits or declarations, 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 the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "[A] material fact is 'genuine' . . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party" on an element of the plaintiff's claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Factual assertions in the moving party's affidavits or declarations 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 opposing a summary judgment motion, a party may not "replace conclusory allegations of the complaint or answer with conclusory allegations of an affidavit," Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990), but rather must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial," Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248 (citation and internal question marks omitted).

In a FOIA case, the Court may grant summary judgment based on information provided in an agency's 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 [a] 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 ...


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