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Fowlkes v. Bureau of Alcohol

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 15, 2014

SEAN DARNELL FOWLKES, Plaintiff,
v.
BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS AND EXPLOSIVES, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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SEAN DARNELL FOWLKES, Plaintiff, Pro se, BALTIMORE, MD.

For BUREAU OF ATF, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Defendants: Rafique Omar Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC; Carl Ezekiel Ross, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and plaintiff's motion will be denied.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, in an effort to obtain records maintained by the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (" EOUSA" ), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (" ATF" ), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ), all components of the United States Department of Justice (" DOJ" ). See generally Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF No. 40] (" Am. Compl." ) at 2-8.

A. Requests to the Executive Office for United States Attorneys

1. FOIA No. 12-1689

In relevant part, plaintiff's first FOIA request to the EOUSA stated:

I'm requesting a copy of the indictment and or complaint and arrest warrant with attached affidavits filed on May 5, 2009 as to case 1:09-CR-00244-CCB in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland Northern Division [including] but not limited to those items. Please confirm or deny the existence of those items named. Also please comply with the provision of Federal Rule[] of Criminal Procedure 49.1 of those materials that are exempt from redaction.

Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 9-2] (" Defs.' First Mem." ), Declaration of David Luczynski (" First Luczynski Decl." ), Ex. A (Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Request dated March 30, 2012). The EOUSA processed his request and released 20 pages of records in full. First Luczynski Decl. ¶ 9. In addition, the EOUSA referred " a number of pages" to the DEA, the component where they originated, id. ¶ 9, for the DEA's direct response to plaintiff, see id., Ex. F (Letter to plaintiff from Susan B. Gerson, Assistant Director, Freedom of Information & Privacy Staff, EOUSA, dated August 16, 2012).

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2. FOIA No. 12-5244

Plaintiff's next FOIA request to the EOUSA sought grand jury information:

[D]isclosure of the dates that grand jury #2010R00536 convened pertaining to criminal no. 1:09-CR-00244-CCB in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland Northern Division including the starting and ending dates of its term.

Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 42-2] (" Defs.' Second Mem." ), Third Declaration of David Luczynski (" 3d Luczynski Decl." ), Ex. A (Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Request dated August 23, 2012). The EOUSA released one page in part, after having redacted information pursuant to Exemptions 3 and 7(C). 3d Luczynski Decl. ¶ 7; see id., Ex. D (Letter to plaintiff from Susan B. Gerson dated March 29, 2013) at 1.

3. FOIA No. 13-755

In his third FOIA request to the EOUSA, plaintiff sought the following information:

[D]isclosure of the dates that grand jury #2010R00518 convened pertaining to criminal no. 1:10-CR-00332-CCB in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland Northern Division including the starting and ending dates of its term, the date the indictment was returned, [the] date the grand jury was discharged, the name of the judge who summoned the grand jury and a certified copy of the minute entries.

Defs.' Second Mem., Second Declaration of David Luczynski (" 2d Luczynski Decl." ) ¶ 4; see 2d Luczynski Decl., Ex. A (Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Request dated February 4, 2013). The EOUSA released " the dates relevant to the grand jury," id. ¶ 9, and otherwise denied the request pursuant to Exemption 3:

With respect to your request for Grand Jury information No. 2010R00518 pertaining to Criminal Case No. 1:10-CR-00332-CCB in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, we are providing the following: 1) that Grand Jury began on January 6, 2009 and ended on June 29, 2010, 2) the Grand Jury in question was the Tuesday Grand Jury, January 2009 term, 3) the remaining portion of your request has been denied in full pursuant to FOIA Exemption [3].

Id., Ex. F (Letter to plaintiff from Susan B. Gerson dated September 25, 2013).

4. FOIA No. 13-1128

Plaintiff's fourth FOIA request to the EOUSA sought the following information:

[D]isclosure of the dates that grand jury #2010R00536 issued the indictments and superseding indictments pertaining to criminal no. 1:10-CR-00244-CCB Filed in the United States district court for the district of Maryland Northern Division including the name of the judge who summoned the grand jury, whether it was summoned pursuant to F. R. Crim. P. 6(a) or 18 U.S.C. 3331[,] and the certified letter requesting the special grand jury, the date the grand jury was discharged, the caption of the indictment and superseding indictments, and a certified copy of the minute entries.

2d Luczynski Decl., Ex. G (Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Request dated March 12, 2013). The EOUSA " provided [plaintiff with] the dates relevant to the grand jury," and otherwise denied the request pursuant to Exemption 3. Id. ¶ 15; see id., Ex. L (Letter to plaintiff from Susan B. Gerson dated September 25, 2013).

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B. Request to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Plaintiff allegedly sent FOIA requests to the ATF on March 29, 2012 and August 28, 2012. Am. Compl. at 2. The ATF did not receive these requests, however, and instead it treated plaintiff's Amended Complaint as if it were a FOIA request. See Defs.' First Mem, Declaration of Stephanie M. Boucher (" Boucher Decl." ) ¶ ¶ 5-7 & n.1. Plaintiff sought:

The criminal investigative File and or complaint in reference to criminal no. 1:10-CR-00332-CCB-1 in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland Northern Division oc[c]urring on 5/6/2009 and any subsequent date after in connection with Firearm 357 Magnum revolver, model GP-100, serial no. 170-50376, all tangible and nontangible records, Typed notes, handwritten notes, reports, pictures, video recordings, affidavits but not limited to these materials.

Am. Compl., Ex. A-1 (Freedom of Information and Privacy Act Request dated March 29, 2012). Responsive records were found in Criminal Investigatory File No. 761015-09-0110. Boucher Decl. ¶ 25. Plaintiff's request was granted in part, and the ATF released records which had been redacted under Exemptions 3, 7(C), and 7(E). Id. ¶ 8. In addition, the ATF referred 10 pages of documents to the DEA, the component where they originated, for the DEA's direct response to plaintiff. Id. ¶ 9.

C. Referrals to the Drug Enforcement Administration

1. DEA FOIA Request No. 12-00185-PR

From the EOUSA, the DEA received 48 pages of records. Defs.' Second Mem., Declaration of Katherine L. Myrick (" Myrick Decl." ) ¶ 3.[2] Of these pages, the DEA released 12 pages in part and withheld 36 pages in full. Myrick Decl. ¶ 4. It relied on Exemptions 3, 7(C), 7(D), 7(E) and 7(F). Id.; see id., Ex. B (Letter to plaintiff from Katherine L. Myrick, Chief, Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Unit, FOI/Records Management Section, DEA, dated December 26, 2012) at 2.

2. DEA FOIA Request No. 13-00099-PR

The ATF referred 10 pages of records to the DEA. Id. ¶ 5. The DEA withheld six pages in full pursuant to Exemptions 7(C), 7(E), and 7(F). Id. ¶ 6; see id., Ex. D (Letter to plaintiff from Katherine L. Myrick dated July 1, 2013) at 2. Four additional pages were withheld in full because the DEA already had processed them in response to a prior request, DEA FOIA Request No. 10-00928-P. Id. ΒΆ 6. Subsequently, the DEA released additional portions of page 46, which it previously had ...


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