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Dean v. United States DOJ

United States District Court, D. Columbia

October 30, 2015

Jesse J. Dean, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
United States Department of Justice, et al., Defendant

          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, Washington, DC.

Page 47

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Amit P. Mehta, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In this Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ) case, the court denied Defendants' initial motion for summary judgment based on Defendant Drug Enforcement Administration's (" DEA" ) decision to neither confirm nor deny the existence of records sought by Plaintiff Jesse J. Dean. Dean v. United States DOJ, 87 F.Supp.3d 318 (D.D.C. 2015). Plaintiff defeated Defendants' motion by showing that the record he sought from the DEA--a " cooperating individual agreement," which he had signed with the DEA in 1991--in fact existed, because prosecutors had used that record at his trial to secure his conviction. Id. at 321. The court ordered the DEA to conduct a search for the requested record. Id. at 322.

         Defendants again move for summary judgment, this time on the basis that the DEA has conducted an adequate search, yet was unable to locate the requested document. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 32. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the court finds that the search was indeed adequate. It therefore grants Defendants' motion for

Page 48

summary judgment for the reasons explained below.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The background of this case was previously recited and will not be repeated here. See Dean, 87 F.Supp.3d at 319-20. An inadequate search for records constitutes an improper withholding under the FOIA. See Maydak v. United States DOJ, 254 F.Supp.2d 23, 44 (D.D.C. 2003). Hence, " a requester dissatisfied with the agency's response that no records have been found may challenge the adequacy of the agency's search by filing a lawsuit in the district court[.]" Valencia-Lucena v. U.S. Coast Guard, 180 F.3d 321, 326, 336 U.S.App.D.C. 386 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (citations omitted).

         An agency seeking summary judgment on the search question bears the burden of showing that, even with the facts viewed in the light most favorable to the requester, the agency has conducted a search " reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents." Weisberg v. DOJ, 705 F.2d 1344, 1351, 227 U.S.App.D.C. 253 (D.C. Cir. 1983). To carry this burden, the agency may submit a " reasonably detailed affidavit, setting forth the search terms and the type of search performed, and averring that all files likely to contain responsive materials (if such records exist) were searched." Oglesby v. U.S. Dep't of Army, 920 F.2d 57, 68, 287 U.S.App.D.C. 126 (D.C. Cir. 1990). Production of such an affidavit allows a requester to challenge, and a court to assess, the adequacy of the search performed by the agency. Id. The agency's affidavits are afforded " a presumption of good faith, which cannot be rebutted by purely speculative claims." SafeCard Servs., Inc. v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200, 288 U.S.App.D.C. 324 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants have proffered the declaration of Jeffrey Green, DEA Special Agent and Unit Chief of the Confidential Source Unit, Policy and Source Management Section, Office of Operations Management (" OMPI" ). Declaration of Jeffrey Green, ECF No. 32-3, ¶ ¶ 1-2. Green is an expert on matters such as the " maintenance, storage, retention and ...


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