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Black v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 23, 2014

ADARUS MAZIO BLACK, Plaintiff
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al, Defendants

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Adarus Mazio Black, Plaintiff, Pro se, Coleman, FL USA.

For Department of Justice, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, Defendants: Jodi T. George, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC USA.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Adarus Mazio Black submitted a Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ) request with the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (" EOUSA" ) seeking all criminal files possessed by the EOUSA referencing Aida Prendushi and all tape recordings and wiretaps which reference Ms. Prendushi or Ms. Prendushi speaking to " John Beason, Waad Murad, Joey Murad, David White, Joe Hermosillo, Case No. 06-CR-20385-MOB-SDP-1, Undercover Agents, and Reginald Coleman." Def.s' Ex. A, ECF No. [22]. Dissatisfied with the agency's refusal to search for responsive documents pursuant to the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C), Plaintiff filed suit against the Department of Justice and the EOUSA on August 2, 2013. Presently before the Court is Defendants' [22] Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's [29] Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that Defendants have properly invoked Exemption 7(C) to justify their refusal to conduct a search in response to Plaintiff's FOIA request. Accordingly, Defendants' [22] Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and Plaintiff's [29] Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Adarus Mazio Black was convicted on May 29, 2009, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit Division, of

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Conspiracy to Distribute and Possession of Cocaine and Marijuana for Intended Distribution, 21 U.S.C. § § 841, 846. By letter dated February 27, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a FOIA request for:

All criminal files which in any fashion reference the name of the person, " Aida Prendushi" with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit, Michigan, Los Angelos [sic], California, and the Southern District of New York. I am requesting all tape recordings and wire taps (or the transcribed equivalents) which in any fashion reference " Aida Prendushi" in them. I am further requesting all tape recordings, wire recordings which involve or reference Aida Prendushi, speaking to John Beason, Waad Murad, Joey Murad, David White, Joel Hermosillo, Case No. 06-CR-20385-MOB-SDP-1, undercover agents and Reginald Coleman.

Def.s' Ex. A, ECF No. [22-4]. By letter dated April 8, 2013, the EOUSA responded to Plaintiff informing him that since his entire request was for records concerning third parties, those records could not be released without " express authorization and consent of the third party, proof that the subject of [the] request is deceased, or a clear demonstration that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the personal privacy interest and that significant public benefit would result from the disclosure of the requested records." Def.s' Ex. B, ECF No. [22-4]. The EOUSA concluded that since Plaintiff had not provided any of the above information, " the release of records concerning a third party would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and be in violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a." Id. The EOUSA also categorically denied the request pursuant to sections (b)(6) and (b)(7)(C) of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552.[2] Id. Plaintiff appealed the denial of his request to the Office of Information Policy (" OIP" ) on or around April 23, 2013. See Def.s' Ex. C, ECF No. [22-4]. OIP affirmed the EOUSA's refusal to conduct a search for the requested records finding that " any responsive request would be categorically exempt from disclosure" pursuant to Exemption 7(C). Def.s' Ex. E, ECF No. [22-4].

On August 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court against the U.S. Department of Justice and the EOUSA. Defendants moved the Court to dismiss this case or, alternatively, to enter summary judgment in Defendants' favor on December 17, 2013. On February 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.

Defendants move the Court to dismiss this case or, alternatively, to enter summary judgment in Defendants' favor, arguing that Defendants properly refused to conduct a search for responsive documents pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C). Plaintiff cross-moves the Court to enter summary judgment in his favor, arguing that Defendants improperly invoked Exemption 7(C).

On June 24, 2014, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order holding in abeyance the parties' motions because the Court found it could not resolve the cross-motions without further briefing.

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See ECF No. [39]. As Defendants did not respond to Plaintiff's argument that the records he requested must be disclosed because they are in the public domain, the Court ordered Defendants to file supplemental briefing addressing whether Plaintiff had made a sufficient argument for applying the public domain doctrine to his FOIA request and whether all or any portion of the information requested by Plaintiff is actually in the public domain. In addition, since Defendants did not provide any information as to whether the third parties in Plaintiff's FOIA request are alive or dead and did not explain any efforts Defendants had undertaken to ascertain that information, the Court ordered Defendants to provide supplemental briefing addressing the efforts they have made to ascertain the third parties' life status and any information they have regarding the third parties' life status. The Court received Defendants' Supplemental Memorandum on August 29, 2014. Plaintiff was afforded an ...


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