United States District Court, D. Columbia
ADOLFO CORREA COSS, Marlene A Dougherty, also known as ADOLFO
COSS, also known as ADOLFO C. CORREA, Plaintiff: Thomas K.
Ragland, LEAD ATTORNEY, BENACH RAGLAND LLP, Washington, DC;
Marlene A. Dougherty, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICE OF MARLENE A.
DOUGHERTY, Brownville, TX.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Executive Office of U.S.
Attorneys, ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., U.S. Attorney General,
Defendants: Rhonda Lisa Campbell, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S.
ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.
E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.
Adolfo Correa Coss is on a quest to find a notebook, which he
believes contains detailed records of a confidential
informant's drug transactions. The records, he believes,
may help exonerate him from a 1991 conviction for drug
trafficking. After learning that several notebooks were
introduced as evidence at the informant's own trial, Coss
submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for them.
later, still empty-handed, Coss filed this suit. The Court,
having already granted partial summary judgment for the
Department of Justice, see Coss v. U.S. Dep't of
Justice, No. 14-1326, 98 F.Supp.3d 28, 2015 WL 1700847
(D.D.C. Apr. 15, 2015), now addresses the sole remaining
issue in the case: whether the Federal Bureau of
Investigation has conducted an adequate search for the
notebooks. Satisfied the Bureau has done so, the Court will
grant its renewed Motion for Summary Judgment.
former United States permanent resident, was convicted of
possession of cocaine with intent to deliver in 1991. See
Compl., ¶ 4; People v. Coss, 246 Ill.App.3d
1041, 617 N.E.2d 138, 186 Ill.Dec. 899 (Ill.App.Ct. 1993). At
trial and during his subsequent appeal, Coss maintained that
the search-warrant application the police used to search his
home, car, and business was based on false claims made by a
confidential informant -- a man whom he later discovered was
Guillermo Casas. See Coss, 2015 WL 1700847, at *1. After
completing his sentence and returning to Mexico, Coss
discovered that Casas, too, had been convicted of drug
trafficking. See generally United States v.
Nava-Salazar, 30 F.3d 788 (7th Cir. 1994). He learned
that during Casas's trial, " the prosecution had
admitted into evidence notebooks that Casas used to record
his drug transactions." Coss, 2015 WL 1700847, at *1.
Believing that the notebooks would shed light on his own lack
of involvement in drug trafficking, Coss then set out to
obtain a copy of them by
filing FOIA requests with the United States Attorney's
Office for the Northern District of Illinois, the FBI, and
eventually the Executive Office of United States Attorneys.
Id. at *1-2.
with the responses he received from the FBI and EOUSA, Coss
filed this suit. His Amended Complaint makes clear that,
although he initially requested Casas's " drug
transaction notebooks" and " any other information
[the agencies] may have relating to Mr. Adolfo Correa
Coss," the sole documents he now seeks in this action
are the notebooks. See Pl.'s MSJ, Exh. D (August 6, 2012,
Request) at 8-9; Am. Compl., ¶ ¶ 6-7. Both parties
then cross-moved for summary judgment, though EOUSA and the
FBI made different arguments. Because EOUSA had explained in
its affidavit that it " (1) identified where the
relevant notebooks might be stored, (2) searched the nine
boxes, and (3) certified that there were no records systems
or locations not searched where the notebooks might have been
found," the Court found the agency's search adequate
and granted it summary judgment. See Coss, 2015 WL 1700847,
FBI, on the other hand, raised procedural hurdles in its
portion of the motion. The Court rejected these, and,
although skeptical that the Bureau would find the notebooks
in its files, nonetheless directed the FBI to search for
them. See Id. at *6.
conducted that search, the FBI now files a renewed Motion for
Summary Judgment. Attached to its Motion, the agency has
submitted an affidavit from David Hardy, Section Chief of the
Record/Information Dissemination Section of the FBI's
Records Management Division. See Mot., Attach. 2 (Second
Declaration of David M. Hardy), ¶ 1. This new
declaration explains that, if the notebooks were in the
FBI's possession, they would be found in the Bureau's
Central Record System (CRS), the database containing all
information compiled for law-enforcement purposes.
Id., ¶ ¶ 6-8 & n.1 (citing Def.'s
First MSJ, Attach. 5 (Declaration of David M. Hardy), ¶
21(b)). The FBI used its Electronic Case File (ECF) system,
one of three applications that organize information stored in
the CRS, to conduct a full-text search of the system for
" Guillermo Casas notebook" and " Casas
notebook." See id., ¶ 7. Although " [t]his
search would have identified any records in the entire CRS
universe containing each of the searched terms," it did
not return any positive results. Id.