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Dean v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 10, 2015

Jesse Jerome Dean, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
United States Department of Justice, et al., Defendants

JESSE JEROME DEAN, JR., Plaintiff, Pro se, MCRAE, GA.

For UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, UNITED STATES DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, PRISCILLA JONES, Supervisory Administrative Specialist, U.S. Department of Justice - Office of Information Policy, KATHERINE L. MYRICK, Chief, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - FOI/Records Management Section, Defendants: Eric Joseph Young, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 319

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Amit P. Mehta, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Jesse Jerome Dean, Jr., a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, brought suit under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain " access to his . . . 'Cooperating Individual Agreement'" that allegedly was " produced at trial and extensively used as [an exhibit]." Plaintiff requested the document from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which responded by neither confirming nor denying the document's existence. Both parties have moved for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the record, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff's motion and denies Defendants' motion for the reasons explained below.

II. BACKGROUND

In July 2013, Plaintiff submitted a Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 552, request to the Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ) for, among other things, " a copy of the DEA Form 473, cooperating individual agreement from [his] confidential informant file . . . used in [his] criminal trial [and] designated 'Government Exhibit 7.'" Decl. of Katherine L. Myrick, Ex. A, ECF No. 16-2 [hereinafter Myrick Decl. ]. On October 22, 2013, the DEA informed Plaintiff that it " will neither confirm nor deny the existence of any records related to any confidential sources and/or any individuals(s) that may have provided information that assisted this agency in any investigative matter." Id., Ex. C. The DEA further stated that if

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any such information exists, it would be exempt from disclosure under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and under FOIA exemptions 7(C), 7(D), 7(E) and 7(F), see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). Id.

On October 28, 2013, Plaintiff appealed the DEA's determination with regard to DEA Form 473 to the Office of Information Policy (" OIP" ). Myrick Decl., Ex. D. He filed this action in April 2014. Thereafter, OIP affirmed the DEA's determination on June 11, 2014. Id., Ex. F.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

FOIA requires a federal agency to release all records responsive to a properly submitted request except those protected from disclosure by one or more of nine enumerated exemptions. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). The Court's jurisdiction extends " to enjoin[ing] [a federal] agency from withholding agency records or [ ] order[ing] the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant." 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). The district court reviews the agency's action de novo and " the burden is on the agency to sustain its action." 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B).

" FOIA cases are typically and appropriately decided on motions for summary judgment." Moore v. Bush, 601 F.Supp.2d 6, 12 (D.D.C. 2009). Summary judgment in a FOIA case may be based solely on information provided in an agency's supporting affidavits or declarations if they are " relatively detailed and nonconclusory." SafeCard Servs., Inc. v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200, 288 U.S.App.D.C. 324 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). The agency's affidavits or declarations must " 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); see Beltranena v. Clinton, 770 F.Supp.2d 175, 181-82 (D.D.C. 2011). To " successfully challenge an agency's showing that it complied with the FOIA, the plaintiff must come forward with 'specific facts' demonstrating that there ...


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