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James Lutcher Negley v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

March 1, 2011

JAMES LUTCHER NEGLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler U.S. District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff James Lutcher Negley ("Plaintiff"), brings this action against Defendant, Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI" or "Defendant"), under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552. This matter is now before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Contempt for Defendant Federal Bureau of Investigation's Failure to Comply with the Court's September 24, 2009 Order [Dkt. No. 90].

Upon consideration of the Plaintiff's Motion, Defendant's Opposition, Plaintiff's Reply, the entire record herein, and for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion for Contempt is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background*fn1

This case concerns a FOIA dispute between Negley and the FBI, which has been ongoing for over nine years.*fn2 On January 16, 2002, Negley submitted a FOIA request to the FBI's San Francisco Field Office ("SFFO") seeking "a copy of any records about [him] maintained at and by the FBI in [the San Francisco] field office." On January 30, 2002, the FBI informed Negley that a search of its Central Records System did not yield any records responsive to his request.

On October 17, 2003, after more than a year and half of proceedings within the FBI, Plaintiff filed this suit. Plaintiff challenged the FBI's compliance with FOIA and sought production of all agency records relating to him from the SFFO. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 19 [Dkt. No. 1].

On August 24, 2007, after several years of litigation regarding the specifics of the FBI's FOIA responsibilities, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Dkt. No.

71], arguing that the FBI's search and production of documents were inadequate as a matter of law, and failed to comply with his FOIA request.*fn3 Plaintiff argued that "despite his broad request 'for any records about him,' and the existence of nine different sources of searchable records, the FBI's only pre-lawsuit search was of one such source--the Universal Index ('UNI')." Negley, 658 F. Supp. 2d at 56-57 (citations omitted). On the same day, Defendant filed a Second Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims raised by Plaintiff [Dkt. No. 72].

On June 15, 2009, unbeknownst to the Court, Plaintiff submitted a separate, expansive FOIA request to Defendant, seeking "all records in the possession of the Federal Bureau of Investigation relating, in any way, to James Lutcher Negley." Eighth Hardy Decl. ¶ 10, Apr. 22, 2010 [Dkt. No. 103-3]. Neither party informed the Court of Plaintiff's June 2009 request.

On September 24, 2009, this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and denied Defendant's Second Motion for Summary Judgment, finding that the FBI's pre-lawsuit search for responsive documents was inadequate, and that Defendant's production of documents was insufficient. Negley, 658 F. Supp. 2d at 56-61. The Court ordered Defendant to:

(1) "produce File Number 149A-SF-106204-S-1575 in its entirety, along with a Vaughn Index for any redactions and/or withholdings and a detailed affidavit explaining the bases for any redactions and/or withholdings" within 30 days of the date of the Order (by October 26, 2009);

(2) conduct reasonable searches, "in response to Negley's FOIA request, for all documents that relate to or reference Negley in any manner," or specify with sufficient detail the search terms used in its previous searches of certain databases, within 60 days of *fn4 the date of the Order (by November 23, 2009);

(3) produce "all documents, including duplicates, responsive to Negley's FOIA request," along with a Vaughn Index for any redactions and/or withholdings, within 90 days of the ...


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