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Schotz v. Samuels

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

October 30, 2014

BARRY R. SCHOTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES E. SAMUELS, JR., Defendant

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BARRY R. SCHOTZ, Plaintiff, Pro se, Tucson, AZ.

For CHARLES E. SAMUELS, JR., Director, Defendant: Shuchi Batra, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

Beryl A. Howell, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This lawsuit, brought pro se by a federal prisoner, arises from the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) response to the plaintiff's request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for " documents within and outside his Inmate Central File." Compl., Ex. A (FOIA Request) at 1, ECF No. 1. Having released records to the plaintiff, the defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or for summary judgment under Rule 56. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 13. The plaintiff has opposed the motion to the extent that BOP limited the search for responsive records to his central file. He also requests " sanctions" on the basis that defendant's disclosure of responsive records was " a direct consequence" of this litigation. Pl.'s Request for Sanctions and Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 15, at 2.

Since there is no genuine dispute regarding the defendant's treatment of the released records, and the defendant has demonstrated the adequacy of its search, the Court will grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment. In addition, the Court will deny the plaintiff's motion for sanctions, construed also as a motion for costs.

I. BACKGROUND

In a prolix request BOP received in January 2012, the plaintiff sought records pertaining to his prison transfers. He requested generally " all . . . documents related to . . . non-voluntary nearer home transfer consideration, recommendation, and approval within and outside my Inmate Central File." Decl. of Beth Ochoa, ECF No. 13-3, Attach. 1 (FOIA Request at 2). The plaintiff stated: " Outside sources include, but are not limited to, any/all communications by and between FCC-Tucson Warden Apker, Camp Administrator S.K. Beauchamp, Unit Manager Debra Baker, Case Manager Arturo Moreno, Counselor Robert Wright, Theresa Talplacido, Institutional Legal Counsel, Western Region Staff, DSCC, etc." Id. BOP distilled from the plaintiff's narrative requests for: (1) a memorandum from FCC Tucson contained in plaintiff's central file regarding his ongoing legal activities, and (2) two categories of documents consisting of transfer records between October 2005 and October 2011, and housing records pertaining to the plaintiff's placement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) between November 21, 2011 and December 1, 2011. Ochoa Decl. ¶ 4.

After searching the plaintiff's central file, BOP assessed a fee of $27.60 to cover the cost of copying 376 " pages responsive to your request for a copy of your central file." Id., Attach. 3. The plaintiff paid the fee on March 24, 2012, without revising the

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characterization of the request as seeking documents from his central file. See id., Att. 4. By letter dated March 27, 2012, BOP acknowledged receipt of the payment and informed the plaintiff that it had located 444 responsive pages and was releasing 366 pages completely and 10 pages with redactions. BOP withheld 68 pages in their entirety, 50 of which were the plaintiff's Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), Statement of Reasons (SOR), and visitor information. BOP invoked FOIA exemptions 2, 7(C) and 7(F), see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b), as the bases for withholding that information. Ochoa Decl., Att. 5.

The plaintiff appealed to the Office of Information Policy (OIP), which, by letter dated September 19, 2012, affirmed BOP's withholdings under exemptions 7(C) and 7(F), and informed the plaintiff that he could not retain a copy of his PSR but could " access [the document] locally by asking a staff member [at his facility] for an opportunity to review it." OIP remanded the plaintiff's request to BOP " for further processing of certain responsive records" and a determination of whether " additional records are releasable[.]" Id., Attach. 6. It informed the plaintiff that he " may appeal any future adverse determination made by BOP," that any inquiry about the status of the remand should be addressed " directly" to BOP, and that he could file a lawsuit if he was dissatisfied. Id.

The plaintiff alleges that he " communicated with BOP Western Regional Counsel" on October 26, 2012, December 10, 2012, and January 2, 2013, about the status of the remanded portion of his request, and informed counsel on April 25, 2013, about his intention to file a lawsuit " if compliance with the OIP['s] [remand] was not timely made" by May 25, 2013. Compl. at 2.

The plaintiff filed this action on November 19, 2013. Thereafter, BOP released additional pages by letters dated January 31, 2014, February 19, 2014, and March 5, 2014. Ochoa Decl. ΒΆ 11. In total, BOP provided the plaintiff with 396 pages, 26 of which contained redacted material; ...


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