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Pinson v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 30, 2014

JEREMY PINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants

Page 200

JEREMY PINSON, Plaintiff, Pro se, FLORENCE, CO.

MICHAEL STINE, Plaintiff, Pro se, FLORENCE, CO.

CHRIS DENNISON, Plaintiff, Pro se, FLORENCE, CO.

For U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, CHARLES E. SAMUELS, JR., BLAKE DAVIS, JOHN DIGNAM, Defendants: John H. Spittell, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 201

Re Document No.: 49

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.

Granting In Part and Denying In Part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

I. INTRODUCTION

Jeremy Pinson currently is an inmate at ADX Florence, a federal prison located in Colorado. While in prison, Mr. Pinson has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 552, requests with different components of the U.S. Department of Justice (" DOJ" ). On several occasions, the DOJ has asked Mr. Pinson to clarify his records requests, told him that it could not find records that are responsive to his requests, or informed him that the records he sought were exempt from disclosure by law. Mr. Pinson took issue with some of these determinations, so he filed a complaint claiming that the DOJ improperly withheld numerous records from him in violation of FOIA. In addition, Mr. Pinson's complaint alleges that the DOJ and two government officials violated the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and certain unspecified provisions in the U.S. Constitution. In response, the DOJ filed nine pre-answer motions, each asking the Court to dismiss or grant summary judgment in its favor on different portions of Mr. Pinson's complaint.

This matter comes before the Court on the DOJ's motion to dismiss or in the alternative, for summary judgment, on Mr. Pinson's FOIA claims against the DOJ's National Security Division (" NSD" ). The DOJ argues that Mr. Pinson's claims against the NSD must be dismissed because Mr. Pinson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before bringing this lawsuit. ( See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss Summ. J. 5-8, ECF No. 49-1.) In addition, the DOJ argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Mr. Pinson's claims against the NSD because the NSD conducted an adequate search in response to Mr. Pinson's FOIA requests and did not improperly withhold any records from him. ( See id. at 8-11.)

For the reasons explained below, the Court grants the DOJ's motion for summary judgment as to FOIA Request No. 11-159 but denies the DOJ's motion for summary judgment as to FOIA Request No. 13-010.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Request No. 11-159

On April 20, 2011, Mr. Pinson drafted a FOIA request to the NSD, requesting any records that mentioned his name or described the conditions at ADX Florence. ( See Pinson Letter Ex. 1, Apr. 20, 2011,

Page 202

ECF No. 49-3.) The NSD received Mr. Pinson's request on May 5, 2011. ( See Mallory Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 49-3.) It then searched its paper files, its electronic files, its email accounts, and its Office of Intelligence's correspondence and policy files for any records that might be responsive to Mr. Pinson's request; [1] the NSD did not find any records responsive to Mr. Pinson's request. ( See id. ¶ 5.) On September 1, 2011, the NSD sent Mr. Pinson a letter informing him of its findings and his right to appeal within sixty days of the date of the letter should Mr. Pinson be unsatisfied with the NSD's response to his FOIA request. ( See NSD Letter Ex. 4, Sept. 1, 2011, ECF No. 49-3.) The NSD has no record of Mr. Pinson appealing this determination to the head of the DOJ, and Mr. Pinson's response does not claim that he did so. ( See Mallory ...


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