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Stanley Joseph Thompson v. United States Department of Justice

March 30, 2012

STANLEY JOSEPH THOMPSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 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 and for summary judgment.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), see 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2010), against the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") for the purpose of obtaining records from the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") about himself. *fn2 Specifically, the plaintiff's request reads:

I would like to request lift images of Stanley Thompson (#152044EB1) Case ID No. 91A-AT-101753, Lab No. 070419013[.] I would also like to request processing records along with chain of command for this case.

Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot."), Declaration ("Decl.") of David M. Hardy ("Hardy Decl."), Exhibit ("Ex.") A (Identification of Requestor) at

2. The FBI initially returned the plaintiff's request to him because "it did not contain sufficient information to conduct an accurate search of the Central Records System ('CRS')" at the FBI's Headquarters office ("FBIHQ"). Id., Hardy Decl. ¶ 8. The plaintiff submitted additional information in February 2009. Id. ¶ 9.

Months later, the FBI "released 121 pages to plaintiff from file 91A-AT-101753," while withholding certain information under FOIA Exemptions 6, 7(C), 7(D) and 7(E). Id. ¶ 12; see id., Ex. F (Letter to plaintiff from David M. Hardy, Section Chief, Record/Information Dissemination Section, Records Management Division, FBI, dated January 20, 2010) at 1. The plaintiff appealed this determination to the DOJ's Office of Information Policy ("OIP"), id., Hardy Decl. ¶ 13, which was partially successful. Namely, although the OIP affirmed the FBI's decision to withhold information under FOIA Exemptions 6, 7(C), and 7(E), it remanded the matter "for a further search for responsive records and for further processing of certain records withheld in full." Id., Ex. I (Letter to plaintiff from Janice Galli McLeod, Associate Director, OIP, dated June 29, 2010) at 1. Consequently, on June 9, 2011, the FBI released another 12 pages to the plaintiff and withheld certain information under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C). Id., Hardy Decl. ¶ 16. On July 7, 2011, the FBI released in their entirety, id. ¶ 17, "two photographs of friction ridge impressions that were located on a demand note [used] during one of the robberies." Id. ¶ 27. However, "[n]one of the documents released to [the] plaintiff is a lift print." Id. ¶ 31.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard of Review in FOIA Cases "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 will grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). More specifically, 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. CIA, 607 F.2d 339, 352 (D.C. Cir. 1978)). Summary judgment in a FOIA case may be based solely on information provided in an agency's supporting affidavits or declarations if they are "relatively detailed and nonconclusory," Safecard Servs., Inc. v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (internal quotations and citations omitted), 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 [or] 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, 181-82 (D.D.C. 2011). "To successfully challenge an agency's showing that it complied with the FOIA, the plaintiff must come forward with 'specific facts' demonstrating that there is a genuine issue with respect to whether the agency has improperly withheld extant agency records." Span v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 696 F. Supp. 2d 113, 119 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting U.S. Dep't of Justice v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 142 (1989)).

B. The FBI's Search for Responsive Records

1. CRS and Cross-References

The CRS includes "administrative, applicant, criminal, personnel and other files compiled for law enforcement purposes," and "consists of a numerical sequence of files . . . called 'classifications,' which are broken down [by] subject matter." Def.'s Mot., Hardy Decl. ¶ 18. The subject matter of a CRS file "may relate to an individual, organization, company, publication, activity or foreign intelligence matter (or program)." Id. FBIHQ maintains certain CRS records; FBI field offices maintain those CRS records "that are pertinent to specific field offices." Id. In order to search the CRS, "the FBI uses . . . the Automated Case Support System ('ACS')." Id.

The ACS is "an internal computerized subsystem of the CRS" which makes it possible to retrieve data from the CRS using alphabetically-arranged General Indices. Id. ΒΆ 20. "The General Indices consist of index cards on various subject matters that are searched either manually or ...


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