United States District Court, District of Columbia
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Paul Julius Fletcher, Salters, SC, pro se.
Sean Joseph Vanek, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.
JAMES E. BOASBERG, District Judge.
Pro se Plaintiff Paul Julius Fletcher, a federal prisoner in South Carolina, brought this action under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act, seeking copies of several records related to his 1975 conviction in D.C. Superior Court. The Government has performed a search and determined that all responsive records were destroyed in 1991. As a result, it has now moved for summary judgment, arguing that it has done all that FOIA requires. Although the Government acknowledges— in supplemental briefing ordered by the Court— that destruction was improper, such acknowledgment cannot resurrect the documents. Since they no longer exist, the Court will grant the defense Motion, but will, for the reasons explained below, dismiss the case without prejudice.
Plaintiff's FOIA request was submitted on December 21, 2011, and sought " a copy of the legal and public indictment that was returned from the grand jury in open court in my name November 1, 1974, of the charges I was convicted of May 9, 1975, and the sentence I received October 15, 1975. Also I am requesting a copy of the arrest warrant, and the Docket Sheet of when I was indict[ed] November 1, 1974." Mot., Declaration of Kathleen Brandon, ¶¶ 4-5 & Exh. A (FOIA Request) at 2. On January 11, 2012, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys requested that the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia search for the requested records. See Brandon Decl., ¶ 7 & Exh. C (EOUSA Request). Twelve days later, Karin Kelly, the FOIA Coordinator at USAO-DC, informed EOUSA that no responsive records existed because the " case was destroyed in August 1991."
See Brandon Decl., ¶ 8 & Exh. D (Kelly Memorandum; Jan. 18, 2012, Letter from National Archives and Records Administration noting destruction in August 1991); Mot., Declaration of Karin B. Kelly, ¶ 1. On April 30, EOUSA so notified Plaintiff. See Brandon Decl., ¶ 9 & Exh. E (EOUSA Letter).
To arrive at her conclusion, Kelly's search took several steps. She first used the USAO computer case-tracking system, called the Master Index System, as well as the Closed Files Information Tracking System, neither of which yielded any positive results. See Kelly Decl., ¶¶ 6-9. Kelly then contacted Yvette Harvey, Records Manager of the Closed Files Unit, who reviewed handwritten logs regarding case files from 1971-96 and informed her that records from Plaintiff's 1975 case had been destroyed. Id., ¶¶ 10-12; Mot., Declaration of Yvette Harvey, ¶ 7. Harvey also provided a letter from NARA memorializing that destruction. See Kelly Decl., ¶ 16 & Exh. D (NARA Letter).
Plaintiff nonetheless filed this action on May 4. Believing it could show the requested documents no longer exist, the Government then moved for summary judgment. In analyzing that motion, the Court considered Plaintiff's argument that any destruction was improper and violative of certain statutes. See ECF No. 14 (Order of Oct. 16, 2012). The Court ultimately asked the Government to provide supplemental briefing on the following questions: " 1) What regulation governs the destruction of the records in this case? 2) Did the Government comply with this regulation? 3) If it did not, is Plaintiff entitled to any remedy and, if not, why not?" Id. at 3.
As the Government has now provided that supplemental briefing, the Court may return to the ...