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Schmitz v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 20, 2014

CHARLENE SCHMITZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant

Page 116

CHARLENE SCHMITZ, Plaintiff, Pro se, TALLAHASSEE, FL.

For UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICE OF INFORMATION POLICY, Defendant: Timothy E. Broomhead, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 117

MEMORANDUM OPINION

EMMET G. SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

In what remains in this Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ) case, defendant has fully released what it contends are all records responsive to plaintiff's FOIA request and moves for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, ECF No. 22. See Feb. 28, 2013 Mem Op. and Order (denying defendant's motion to dismiss). Plaintiff has opposed the instant motion, ECF No. 24, defendant has replied, ECF No. 27, and plaintiff was granted leave to file a surreply, ECF No. 30. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record, the Court will grant defendant's motion and enter judgment accordingly.

BACKGROUND

By letter dated August 26, 2010, plaintiff requested records pertaining to her criminal prosecution and that of Richard Brooks Nelson, both having occurred in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. Plaintiff specifically requested as to her case an " affidavit regarding

Page 118

loss for restitution signed by Donna Marks; [the] criminal complaint; [and] [a] video surveillance tape seized from Leroy High School." As to Nelson's case, plaintiff requested the " Docket for Crim. Defendant, Richard Brooks Nelson, . . . a. Motion to dismiss Indictment[; ] b. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal[; ] c. Court Order denying Motion for Judgment of Acquittal[; ] d. Court Order denying Motion to Dismiss Indictment." Decl. of Kathleen Brandon, Ex. A (Request)[1]; see Compl. ¶ ¶ 1-3. By letter dated August 31, 2011, plaintiff requested " [e]vidence in support of the news conference on June 25, 2007 by the Sheriff for attesting to his personal knowledge that Schmitz had admitted to the crime." Brandon Decl., Ex. B. The two requests were acknowledged and assigned one file number, Request No. 10-3139. Id. ¶ 6, n.1.

Following a search for responsive records by the FOIA contact at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Alabama (" local office" ), EOUSA, by letter dated December 30, 2010, released 13 unredacted pages of documents that were filed in plaintiff's criminal case. Brandon Decl. ¶ ¶ 7-9 & Ex. E. The release consisted of a five-page Memorandum Opinion and Order, a four-page Motion for Judgment of Acquittal After Discharge of Jury or in the Alternative Motion for New Trial, and a two-page Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, all filed in February 2008, and a two-page Indictment filed November 27, 2007. Id. ¶ 9. In a supplemental release dated April 17, 2013, made in response to plaintiff's assertions in this litigation, defendant released the docket for Nelson's case and noted that " [a]s the docket indicates, there is no Motion to Dismiss Indictment, Court Order Denying Motion to Dismiss Indictment, Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, or Court Order Denying Motion for Judgment of Acquittal." Id., Ex. F.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is warranted " if the movant shows [by affidavit or other admissible evidence] that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party opposing a summary judgment motion must show that a genuine factual issue exists by " (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . . or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Any factual assertions in the moving party's affidavits will be accepted as being true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the assertion. Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456, 295 U.S.App.D.C. 350 (D.C. Cir. 1992). However, " the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

FOIA cases are typically and appropriately decided on motions for summary judgment. Gold Anti--Trust Action Comm., Inc. v. Bd. of Governors of Fed. Reserve Sys., 762 F.Supp.2d 123, 130 (D.D.C. 2011) (citations omitted). An agency has the burden of demonstrating that " each document that falls within the class requested ...


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