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Jeremy Pinson v. Harley G. Lappin

August 30, 2011

JEREMY PINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARLEY G. LAPPIN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Beryl A. Howell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, defendant's summary judgment motion and plaintiff's motion for an award of costs will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a federal prisoner, Compl. ¶ 2, submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, to the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), Compl. ¶ 4, seeking the following information:

Names and positions of all employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, who are employed at the Designation and Sentence Computation Center, South East Regional Office and Central Office since January 1, 2009.

\

Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. or to Transfer ("Def.'s Mem."), Greene Decl., Ex. 1 (Letter to Director, BOP, from plaintiff dated June 23, 2010).

The BOP's declarant believed that, at the time of plaintiff's request, "there was no method to query a BOP data system for staff employed" at the Central Office ("CO"), the Southeast Regional Office ("SERO"), and the Designations and Sentence Computation Center ("DSCC") after January 1, 2009, particularly in light of staff transfers, retirements and resignations throughout the BOP. Def.'s Mem., Greene Decl. ¶ 8. The declarant chose instead "to obtain a list of staff names . . . [by] search[ing] BOP's internal website called Sallyport, which is available to [BOP] employees only." Id., Greene Decl. ¶ 8. The declarant then "conducted a search using the staff directory to review a list of names of staff employed at SERO, CO, and Grand Prairie."*fn2 Id., Greene Decl. ¶ 8. The declarant did not print the list. Id., Greene Decl. ¶ 8.

The BOP denied in full plaintiff's FOIA request (assigned FOIA No. 2010-09755) under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C), Def.'s Mem., Greene Decl. ¶¶ 7, 9, explaining that the agency would "not release lists of staff members to inmates" for the "safety and security of [BOP] employees." Id., Greene Decl., Ex. 2 (Letter to plaintiff from Jeff Campbell, Supervisory Attorney, SERO, dated August 4, 2010) at 1. Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal to the Office of Information Policy ("OIP"), United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"), Compl. ¶ 6, which was assigned Appeal No. 2010-2959, Def.'s Mem., Greene Decl. ¶ 10. OIP affirmed the BOP's determination on September 29, 2010. Compl. ¶ 6. In this action, plaintiff has demandeddeclaratory judgment, id. ¶ 8, injunctive relief "compelling the release of information . . . requested," id. ¶ 9, and an award of costs, id. ¶ 10.

Following the filing, on October 29, 2010, of this lawsuit, the BOP "clarified" that the names and titles of BOP employees requested by plaintiff could be released in full. Def.'s Mem., Greene Decl. ¶ 12. Accordingly, using the agency staff directory, on December 3, 2010, the declarant compiled lists of SERO (6 pages), DSCC (33 pages) and CO (56 pages) employees and their respective titles. Id., Greene Decl. ¶ 12. The BOP released the list to plaintiff after redacting each staff member's telephone number and email address under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C). Id., Greene Decl., Ex. 5 (Letter to plaintiff from Jeff Campbell dated January 26, 2011, and Staff Directory Search Results). Separately the BOP released a list of names and titles of SERO, DSCC, and CO staff since January 1, 2009, after having redacted these individuals' telephone numbers and email addresses under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C). Id., Greene Decl., Ex. 6 (Letter to plaintiff from Jeff Campbell dated February 2, 2011). The plaintiff's FOIA request did not ask for disclosure of the staff members' telephone numbers or email addresses and this redacted information was, consequently, not responsive to the request.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment in a FOIA Case "FOIA cases typically and appropriately are decided on motions for summary judgment." Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Border Patrol, 623 F. Supp. 2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2009). The Court grants summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). In a FOIA action to compel production of agency records, the agency "is entitled to summary judgment if no material facts are in dispute and if it demonstrates 'that each document that falls within the class requested either has been produced . . . or is wholly exempt from the [FOIA's] inspection requirements.'" Students Against Genocide v. Dep't of State, 257 F. 3d 828, 833 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (quoting Goland v. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 607 F.2d 339, 352 (D.C. Cir. 1978)). Summary judgment may be based solely on information provided in an agency's supporting affidavits or declarations if they are relatively detailed and 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); see Beltranena v. Clinton, 770 F. Supp. 2d 175, 182 (D.D.C. 2011).

B. Exemption 6*fn3

Exemption 6 protects "personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." 5 U.S.C. ยง 552(b)(6). "The information in the file 'need not be intimate' for the file to satisfy the standard, and the threshold for determining whether information applies to a particular individual is minimal." Milton v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, __ F. Supp. 2d __, __, 2011 WL 1743234, at *2 (D.D.C. May 6, 2011) (quoting New York Times Co. v. Nat'l Aeronautics and Space Admin., 920 F.2d 1002, 1006 (D.C. Cir. 1990)). Once this threshold inquiry is met, the Court employs abalancing test to determine whether release of such information constitutes a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and ...


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