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Alvin B. Truesdale v. United States Department of Justice

August 17, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge


In its September 29, 2009 Opinion and Order, the Court dismissed all defendants except the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ" or "defendant"), and dismissed all but two claims: one under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, with regard to FOIA Request No. 2004-02303 which had been directed to the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), and another under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, with regard to plaintiff's demand for amendment of records maintained in the BOP's SENTRY database. See Truesdale v. United States Dep't of Justice, 657 F. Supp. 2d 219, 227-29 (D.D.C. 2009). The Privacy Act claim since has been resolved, see Truesdale v. United States Dep't of Justice, 731 F. Supp. 2d 3, 8-11 (D.D.C. 2010), and this matter is before the Court for resolution of the FOIA claim.*fn1


Plaintiff and his co-defendants "were convicted of participation in a cocaine conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. The ringleader, Alvin Truesdale, was also convicted of maintaining a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848, and several other federal offenses." United States v. McManus, 23 F.3d 878, 880 (4th Cir. 1994). Plaintiff has been in BOP custody since April 1993, and he currently is serving a term of life plus 25 years' imprisonment. Declaration of Alvin B. Truesdale [Dkt. # 91] at 1.

Plaintiff submitted a FOIA request, addressed to the DOJ's Justice Management Division ("JMD"), FOIA/PA Mail Referral Unit ("MRU"), on or about August 28, 2003. Defendant U.S. Department of Justice's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot."), Declaration of Vanessa R. Brinkmann ("Brinkmann Decl.") ¶ 3. The request, which was assigned Request No. 2004-02303, sought the following information:

A copy of any and all documents that shows the Attorney General of the United States established in the Department of Justice a repository of records of requester CCE (21 USC § 848) conviction and all records that determine the [v]alidity and/or the invalidation of said conviction.

A copy of any and all certified records of the requester's CCE conviction that shows [i]nvalidation or validity of said conviction. See 18 USC § 3661(a) (b) (c) [sic].

Id., Brinkmann Decl., Ex. A (FOIA/PA Request dated August 28, 2003).*fn2 JMD MRU staff directed plaintiff's request to the BOP, which returned the request to the DOJ's Office of Information Policy ("OIP") in January 2011. Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 3. The OIP assigned the matter a new tracking number, AG/11-00086 (P). See id., Brinkmann Decl., Ex. B (Letter to plaintiff from V.R. Brinkmann, Counsel, Initial Request Staff, OIP, DOJ, dated February 15, 2011).

OIP and its staff are "responsible for processing FOIA requests seeking records from within OIP and from seven senior leadership offices of the [DOJ], specifically the Offices of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, Legal Policy, Legislative Affairs, Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, and Public Affairs." Def.'s Mot., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 1. They "determine[] whether records responsive to access requests exist and, if so, whether they can be released in accordance with the FOIA." Id.

OIP staff concluded that plaintiff sought "records pertaining to 18 U.S.C. § 3662, which states that the Attorney General 'is authorized to establish in the [DOJ] a repository for records of convictions and determinations of the validity of such convictions.'" Def.'s Mot., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 4 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3662(a)).*fn3 "Based upon information from defendant's counsel, as well as OIP's own research, OIP interpreted plaintiff's request as seeking records pertaining to and/or contained within the repository referenced in the statute," and processed the request "on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General." Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 4.

The Departmental Executive Secretariat maintains a central electronic database, the Intranet Quorum ("IQ"), "to control and track certain incoming and outgoing correspondence for the [DOJ's] senior management offices." Def.'s Mot., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 5. Trained Executive Secretariat analysts enter records received by senior management offices into the IQ, and each entry includes "such items as the date of the document, the date of receipt, the sender, the recipient, as well as a detailed description of the subject of the record." Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 5. An entry may include "what action is to be taken . . ., which component has responsibility for that action, and when that action should be completed." Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 5. "Key word searches . . . may then be conducted by utilizing a single search parameter," such as a subject, organization, date, or name, or by utilizing a combination of search parameters. Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 5. In this instance, the assigned FOIA Specialist searched the IQ using the terms "Alvin B. Truesdale," "Alvin Truesdale," "18 USC 3662," "18 U.S.C. 3662," and "repository AND records." Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 5. The search yielded neither records pertaining to a repository nor records pertaining to plaintiff's conviction. Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 5.

"In an effort to identify whether another component within the [DOJ] would maintain the records sought by plaintiff, the FOIA Specialist . . . contacted a [DOJ] research librarian, who commenced a search for the repository of records cited in plaintiff's request." Def.'s Mot., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 6. The librarian "researched the legislative history of 18 U.S.C. § 3662, the Federal Register, and the Department's history for the establishment of a repository of records under 18 U.S.C. § 3662," and located "[n]o repository of records responsive to plaintiff's request." Id., Brinkmann Decl. ¶ 6.

Finally, based on the FOIA Specialist's research and the librarian's suggestion "that the [Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI")] would be the component most likely to maintain the repository referenced in 18 U.S.C. ยง 3662," the specialist "researched the publicly available list of the systems of records maintained by the [DOJ], as well as the publicly available file classification list of the [FBI]," and still found no responsive records. Def.'s Mot., Brinkmann ...

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