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Gamboa v. Executive Office of United States Attorney

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 31, 2015

EDGAR MOSQUERA GAMBOA, Plaintiff,
v.
EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD J. LEON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff Edgar Mosquera Gamboa ("plaintiff) commenced this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, seeking records pertaining to a joint task force investigation by the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys ("EOUSA"), the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") (together, "defendants"), and the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"), into money laundering and cocaine trafficking offenses for which plaintiff was ultimately convicted. See Compl. [Dkt. #1]. On August 26, 2014, the Court denied in part defendants' first Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. #26] on the grounds that: (1) the DEA did not demonstrate that its search for records responsive to plaintiffs FOIA request was adequate; (2) the FBI did not demonstrate that informant(s) provided information under an implied assurance of confidentiality for purposes of FOIA Exemption 7(D); and (3) neither the FBI nor the Executive Office for Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces ("OCDETF") demonstrated that the withholding of information under FOIA Exemption 7(F) was appropriate. See generally Gamboa v. Exec. Office for U.S. Attorneys, 65 F.Supp.3d 157 (D.D.C. 2014). The Court assumes familiarity with the factual and procedural background of this case and, in the interest of judicial economy, addresses only the legal issues now at hand in Defendants' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. #45] pertaining to the remaining three issues. Upon consideration of the parties' pleadings, the relevant law, and the entire record herein, the Court GRANTS defendants' Motion and DISMISSES the case.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

FOIA cases are typically resolved on motions for summary judgment. See Petit-Frere v. U.S. Attny's Office for the S. Dist. Of Flor., 800 F.Supp.2d 276, 279 (D.D.C. 2011) (citations omitted), affdper curiam, No. 11-5285, 2012 WL 4774807, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 19, 2012). A court will grant summary judgment if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In the FOIA context, an agency may meet its burden solely on the basis of affidavits or declarations, see Valencia-Lucena v. U.S. Coast Guard, 180 F.3d 321, 326 (D.C. Cir. 1999), as long as 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 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (footnote omitted).

DISCUSSION

I. The Adequacy of the DEA's Search for Responsive Records

I begin by addressing the adequacy of the DEA's search for records responsive to plaintiffs FOIA request. "It is elementary that an agency responding to a FOIA request must conduct a search reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents, and, if challenged, must demonstrate beyond material doubt that the search was reasonable." Truitt v. Dep't of State, 897 F.2d 540, 542 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (footnotes, brackets, and internal quotation marks omitted). Unfortunately for plaintiff, I conclude that the DEA's search was appropriate.

In July 2010, plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the DEA that read in relevant part:

"I would like to have the two (2) lab report for the case # CR-H-82-3
1) Lab report F3 806
2) Lab report F3 808 Requested information will consist of the dates from 1993- to the Present Date
A Vaughn Index is requested and also expected

Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ("Defs.' First Mem.") [Dkt. #26-1], Deck of William C. Little, Jr., ("Little Deck"), Ex. A (Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request for Records dated July 29, 2010) [Dkt. #26-6]. DEA staff construed plaintiffs request as one "seeking two (2) laboratory reports associated with Criminal Case Docket No. CR-H-9382-3 for Lab Report No. F3806 and F3808." Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Defs.' Renewed Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Second Mem.") [Dkt. #45], Supplemental Decl. of William C. Little, Jr., ("Supp. Little Decl.") ¶ 3 [Dkt. #45-1]. Based on the limited information contained in plaintiffs request, defendants determined that "information responsive to the plaintiffs request is criminal investigatory data compiled for law enforcement purposes that would be contained in a criminal investigative file maintained in the DEA Investigative Reporting and Filing System ('IRFS') and/or the files of the DEA laboratory that conducted the testing." Supp. Little Decl. ¶ 4.

As defendants have made clear, however, "[a] criminal case name or docket number is of no use in locating records contained [within] DEA investigative or laboratory records systems." Id. ¶ 8. In order to retrieve a laboratory report, one must determine "the 'Laboratory Number' and the location of the specific DEA laboratory that performed the analysis, or the investigative file number, the exhibit number and the laboratory that conducted the testing[.]" Id. Investigative case files in IRFS are organized "according to the name of the principal suspect violator or entity known to DEA at the time the file is opened[; the DEA] does not maintain a separate dossier ... on every individual or entity that is of investigative interest." Id. ¶ 10. To search IRFS for investigative case files, one must use NADDIS, "the index and the practical means by which DEA retrieves investigative reports and information from IRFS." Id. ¶ 11. ...


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