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Schotz v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 20, 2016

BARRY R. SCHOTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BERYL A. HOWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The plaintiff, Barry R. Schotz, challenges the responses of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (“EOUSA”) to his requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. Both BOP and EOUSA are components of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), which has moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.’s Mot.”), ECF No. 13. The plaintiff has cross-moved for summary judgment. Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.’s Cross-Mot.”), ECF No. 23. Upon consideration of the parties’ submissions and the entire record, the Court grants the defendant’s motion, denies the plaintiff’s motion, and enters judgment accordingly.

I. BACKGROUND

The events forming the basis of the plaintiff’s ten claims set out in the amended complaint, ECF No. 9, are as follows.

A. Request Number 2013-09815 (Claim 1)

In a FOIA request, dated July 5, 2013, the plaintiff sought from BOP essentially all records pertaining to Dr. Gary L. Henderson, M.D., who had contracted with BOP to provide medical services. Decl. of Beth Ochoa, Att. 1, ECF No. 13-3. The plaintiff explained that Dr. Henderson had performed surgery on him while he was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Tucson, Arizona (“FCC Tucson”). Thus, BOP interpreted the request as seeking “any document in Plaintiff’s Medical Record regarding [Dr. Henderson].” Ochoa Decl. ¶ 5. By letter, dated August 8, 2013, BOP released five pages of the plaintiff’s “medical documents with regards to [Dr. Henderson].” Id., Att. 2. BOP stated that it was unclear “what other records” the plaintiff sought but that it lacked authorization from Dr. Henderson to release any personal information. Id.

In his appeal of BOP’s determination to DOJ’s Office of Information Policy (“OIP”), the plaintiff stated that he was “seeking records by and between all parties otherwise clearly identified in the body of the FOIA request pursuant [to] the contract and authorizing of [Dr. Henderson] to provide contract medical services.” Id., Att. 3. In response, OIP asked BOP to conduct “an additional search for any documents regarding the contracting of [Dr. Henderson].” Id. ¶ 6. The medical staff at FCC Tucson explained that it had no responsive records because, at the relevant time period, “the Health Services Department . . . was contracting through MDI for outside consultations and medical procedures. It was [MDI’s] responsibility . . . to verify the credentials of their physicians, hospitals and consultants.” Id. Consequently, FCC Tucson had no record systems to search because it “[did] not maintain and/or verify Medical Doctors’ credentials practicing at local hospitals.” Id. In a letter dated September 30, 2013, OIP affirmed BOP’s determination upon concluding “that BOP has now conducted an adequate, reasonable search for such records.” Am. Compl., Ex. A, ECF 9-1 at 23.

B. Request Number 2013-11514 (Claim 2)

In a FOIA request, dated August 24, 2013, the plaintiff requested from BOP authorizations for escorted medical trips on various dates in 2011 and 2012 while he was designated to two different facilities. Specifically, he requested such authorization records for medical trips on July 5, 2011, July 20, 2011, August 15, 2011, and September 30, 2011, while he was “designated at Federal Correctional Complex-United States Penitentiary-Satellite Prison Camp, ” and trips occurring in “late June/early July, 2012, ” July 26, 2012, August 8, 2012, September 11, 2012, and September 13, 2012 “while [he was] designated to Federal Correctional Institution Safford, Arizona.” Ochoa Decl., Att. 5. The plaintiff listed “potential locations” where the records might be found as the “Inmate Central File; Inmate Medical Records (including BEMR); Custody Transportation (Captains’ Records); Medical Trips Coordinator Office; Transportation Department . . . and/or SENTRY.” Id. In addition, the plaintiff provided the names of clinical directors, unit managers and the last name of the “Captain for Tucson” as potential leads for locating the records. Id. The plaintiff ended by “requesting any and all records, including, but not limited to: files, logs, writings, memorandums to and among BOP Staff Members or by and between Departments, by and between any and all outside contracted health care consultants.” Id. at 2.

BOP interpreted the plaintiff’s request as seeking “Escorted Trip Authorization forms (BP-A0502), ” which “are maintained in Section Five and/or Section Six of the inmate’s Central File.” Ochoa Decl. ¶ 8. A manual search of the plaintiff’s Central File located no responsive records. Medical staff also searched the plaintiff’s “Medical Record, ” which is an electronic record without “a search function.” That additional search, performed “in an abundance of caution” since such forms are “not typically placed in the Medical Record, ” yielded no responsive records for 2011. Id.

By letter, dated December 3, 2013, BOP released nine pages responsive to the request for escorted trip authorizations in 2012; it informed the plaintiff that no such records were located for 2011. Ochoa Decl., Att. 6. BOP also informed the plaintiff that information was redacted from three of the released pages pursuant to FOIA exemption 7(E), 5 U.S.C. § 552(b).

The plaintiff appealed, expressing his complete dissatisfaction “with NO Escorted Trip Authorizations being located for 2011.” Am. Compl., Ex. B, ECF 9-1 at 28 (capitalization in original). As for the redacted pages, the plaintiff stated that he could not “dispute something that I cannot review, however, it is clear that these pages should have been provided with the alleged sections of exemption claim reda[c]ted.” He then requested the release of the “three pages . . . with the alleged exempt sections reda[c]ted for my review[.]” Id. In a letter, dated May 1, 2014, OIP affirmed BOP’s withholding decision and its search efforts. OIP informed the plaintiff that “[w]hile BOP’s system indicates that you may have been transported for medical purposes in 2011, BOP conducted a further search but still could locate no records concerning any such transports.” Am. Compl., Ex. B, ECF 9-1 at 32.

C. Request Number 2014-00217/2013-3383 (Claim 3)

In a FOIA request, dated August 5, 2013, the plaintiff requested from EOUSA all information “dated after August 29, 2005” pertaining to the restitution order entered in his criminal case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Decl. of David Luczynski, Ex. A, ECF No. 13-4. By letter, dated January 10, 2014, EOUSA informed the plaintiff that no specific records responsive to his request had been located, but released in full a twenty- page “Governments Position Paper dated 8-26-05 which includes Loss/Restitution.” Id., Ex. B.

In his administrative appeal of the foregoing determination, the plaintiff stated that he had no record of the referenced request number and indicated that his request numbered 13-3383 remained unanswered. Id., Ex. C. The plaintiff requested an answer to number 13-3383, which “includes a request for any and all correspondence delivered or otherwise from the United States Attorney and/or the Financial Litigation Unit to Schotz.” Id. In a letter dated April 28, 2014, OIP clarified that EOUSA had subsequently “converted Request No. 13-3383 to Request No. ORACL-2014-00217. Therefore, ...


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