United States District Court, D. Columbia.
Decided March 17, 2015
BRIAN EUGENE SMITH, Plaintiff, Pro se, ADELANTO, CA.
For EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, Defendants: Fred Elmore Haynes, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.
MEMORANDUM OPINION [Dkt. ## 35, 49]
RICHARD J. LEON, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, against two components of the United States Department of Justice (" DOJ" ): the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (" EOUSA" ) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ). See Compl. [Dkt. #1]. This matter is before the Court on the Drug Enforcement Administration's Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. #35] (" DEA Supp. Mot." ) and plaintiff's Counter Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. #49]. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the former and DENIES the latter.
In December 2010, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the United States Marshals Service (" USMS" ), Compl. ¶ 9, which in relevant part stated:
My request is to receive the chain of custody of the drugs that were seized in the state of Indiana, on 1-70, the first week of December, 2007.
The drugs were seized by Detective Jack Martin, with the Wayne County Sheriff[']s Department, Indianapolis Drug Enforcement Agent Cody Dooley and Richmond Police Officer Scott Owens. The drugs were seized and brought to Pittsburgh[,] Pennsylvania far a controlled delivery to Brian E. Smith (Case#CM080023).
Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Defs.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J. [Dkt. #24], Decl. of Katherine L. Myrick [Dkt. #24-2] (" Myrick Decl." ), Ex. H (Freedom of Information Act Request dated December 22, 2010). Because the information plaintiff requested was " under the jurisdiction of the [DEA]," the USMS forwarded the request to the DEA. Myrick Decl., Ex. I (Letter to Katherine L. Myrick, Chief, Freedom of Information Operations Unit, DEA, from William E. Bardley, Associate General Counsel/FOIPA Officer. Office of the General Counsel, USMS, dated January 6, 2011).
DEA staff determined that " the information [plaintiff] was seeking was identical and/or substantially the same investigative information" sought in a previous FOIA request submitted directly to the DEA. Myrick Decl. ¶ 16; see id. ¶ ¶ 5-12, 37-39. The DEA therefore took no further action at that time and administratively closed the case. Id., Ex. K (Letter to plaintiff from Katherine L. Myrick dated February 22, 2011). When " [c]oncerns [arose] as to whether DEA conducted an adequate search for chain-of-custody documents . . ., counsel represent[ed] that a new search of the file related to plaintiff's criminal case was needed." Smith v. Exec. Office for U.S. Attorneys, __ F.Supp.3d __, 2014 WL 4783256, at * 3 n.2 (D.D.C. Sept. 25, 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). The DEA has filed a supplemental motion for summary judgment, DEA Supp. Mot., with a supporting declaration " to provide the Court with information regarding DEA's search for, and the processing and release of documents, as plaintiff describes, 'the chain of custody of the drugs seized in the state of Indiana, on 1-70, the first week of December, 2007' with reference to DEA Investigative File No. CM-08-0023." Mem. in Support of DEA's Supplemental Mot. for Summ. 1. [Dkt. #35], Supplemental Decl. of Katherine L. Myrick [Dkt. #35-1] (" Supp. Myrick Decl." ) ¶ 2.
The Court will grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In a FOIA action to compel production of agency records, the agency " is entitled to summary judgment if no material facts are in dispute and if it demonstrates 'that each document that falls within the class requested either has been produced ... or is wholly exempt from the [FOIA's] inspection requirements.'" Students Against Genocide v. Dep't of State, 257 F.3d 828, 833, 347 U.S.App.D.C. 235 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (quoting Goland v. CIA, 607 F.2d 339, 352, 197 U.S.App.D.C. 25 (D.C. Cir. 1978)) (alteration in original).
Summary judgment may be based solely on information provided in an agency's supporting affidavits or declarations if they are relatively detailed and when they describe " the documents and the justifications for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail, demonstrate that the information withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the record [or] by evidence of agency bad faith." Military Audit Project v. Casey, 656 F.2d 724, 738, 211 U.S.App.D.C. 135 (D.C. Cir. 1981). " To successfully challenge an agency's showing that it complied with the FOIA, the plaintiff must come forward with 'specific facts' demonstrating that there is a genuine issue with respect to whether the agency has improperly withheld . . . ...