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Pinson v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 10, 2016

JEREMY PINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION Re Document No.: 265

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Granting in Part Defendants’ Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

         While in prison, pro se Plaintiff Jeremy Pinson filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, requests with different components of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). On several occasions, the DOJ has asked Pinson to clarify her[1] records requests, told her that it could not find records that are responsive to her requests, or informed her that the records she sought were exempt from disclosure by law. Pinson took issue with some of these determinations, so she filed a complaint claiming that the DOJ improperly withheld numerous records from her in violation of FOIA. In response, the DOJ filed several pre-answer motions, each asking the Court to dismiss or grant summary judgment in its favor on different portions of Pinson’s complaint.

         The DOJ previously moved for summary judgment as to Pinson’s numerous FOIA claims against the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). The Court resolved that prior motion by granting summary judgment in part to the DOJ and denying summary judgment in part. See Pinson v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, No. 12-1872, 2016 WL 29245, at *1 (D.D.C. Jan. 4, 2016). On February 3, 2016, the DOJ filed a second motion for partial summary judgment as to some of Pinson’s claims against the BOP. See Defs.’ 2d Mot. Summ. J. Respect BOP (“Defs.’ 2d MSJ”), ECF No. 265. Specifically, the DOJ’s second motion addresses seven numbered requests, and argues that the searches it conducted were reasonably calculated to identify responsive records, and that any records not produced were properly withheld pursuant to FOIA exemptions.[2] See Defs.’ Mem. P. & A., ECF No. 265-2.

         On March 18, 2016, the Court advised Pinson of her obligation to timely respond to DOJ’s second motion for summary judgment. See Order of Mar. 18, 2016, ECF No. 272; see also Fox v. Strickland, 837 F.2d 507, 509 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (per curiam) (holding that a district court must take pains to advise a pro se party of the consequences of the failure to respond to a dispositive motion); Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1992). In that same order, the Court granted Pinson additional time to respond and explained that if Pinson failed to do so by May 18, 2016, the Court could treat the motion as conceded, grant the motion, and dismiss Pinson’s claims as to the BOP. See Order of Mar. 18, 2016. May 18, 2016, has now passed, and Pinson has still not responded to DOJ’s second motion for partial summary judgment.

         In light of her failure to respond, Pinson has conceded the DOJ’s statement of undisputed facts. See D.D.C. Local Civ. R. 7(h). With those conceded facts in mind, the Court will address whether granting DOJ’s second motion for partial summary judgment is warranted.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This Court has already explained the factual background in detail in its prior Memorandum Opinion. See Pinson, 2016 WL 29245, at *3-5. The Court assumes familiarity with its prior opinion and confines its discussion to the facts most relevant to the present motion.

         A. Request No. 2011-4954

         In February 2011, Pinson submitted a request to the BOP for the production of “[a]ny Discipline Hearing Officer Report, issued in the years 2010 or 2011, to an inmate assigned to any phase of the ADX Step-Down Program, wherein a Prohibited Act Code 100, 100A, 101, 101A was found to have been committed.” 2d Decl. Kara Christenson Ex. 2 (“2d Christenson Decl.”), ECF No. 265-4. This request was assigned number 2011-4954 and, by letter dated October 20, 2011, the DOJ advised Pinson that it had located no responsive records. See Id. ¶¶ 5, 10 & Ex. 3. In its first motion for summary judgment, the DOJ argued that Pinson had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, but the Court denied the DOJ’s motion for summary judgment because genuine issues of fact remained concerning whether Pinson ever received BOP’s final response for this request. See Pinson, 2016 WL 29245, at *12-13. Since the Court issued that opinion, the BOP has hand-delivered a copy of the final response letter to Pinson. See 2d Christenson Decl. ¶ 4 & Ex. 1. In this motion, the DOJ now argues that its search was adequate. See Defs.’ 2d MSJ at 1-2.

         B. Request No. 2011-9164

         In July 2011, Pinson submitted a request to the BOP for the production of: (1) “All information regarding debts or encumbrances to [her] inmate trust account including the date, source and amount of each since 1-1-2008”; (2) “All contact data, incoming and outgoing messages in [Pinson’s] TRULINCS account from 2-14-08 to 5/30/08”; and (3) photographs taken of Pinson “following altercations on Aug. 31, 2007 and Sept. 9, 2007 at USP Beaumont, Oct. 15, 2007 and Dec. 12, 2007 at USP Florence, March 30, 2008 and April 9, 2008 at USP Victorville, Sept. 10, 2009 and June 25, 2010 at FCI Talladega.” See 2d Christenson Decl. Ex. 4. In response to this request, the DOJ released 114 pages of responsive records by letter dated July 26, 2012. See Id. ¶ 24. The DOJ informed Pinson that no records could be found concerning the TRULINCS account because it had not existed at the facility in which Pinson was housed during the identified time period. See Id. ¶¶ 15, 24 & Ex 5. Moreover, the BOP advised Pinson that it had only been able to locate photographic records for five of the eight altercations she had listed. See Id. ¶ 24 & Ex. 5. The Court denied the DOJ’s previous motion for summary judgment with respect to this request, concluding that there was a factual dispute as to whether Pinson had received the DOJ’s final response. See Pinson, 2016 WL 29245, at *13. And, again, after the Court issued its opinion, the BOP hand-delivered a copy of its final response letter to Pinson. See 2d Christenson Decl. ¶ 4 & Ex. 1. The DOJ now argues that its search was adequate. See Defs.’ 2d MSJ at 1-2.

         C. Request No. 2011-9398

         On or about July 7, 2011, Pinson submitted Request No. 2011-9398 to the BOP for the “production of all information maintained by [the BOP] on the Florencia X3 gang.” Decl. Eugene E. Baime ¶ 4 & Attach. 1 (“Baime Decl.”), ECF No. 265-3. By letter dated August 25, 2011, the BOP informed Pinson that it had not located any responsive records because “the BOP does not maintain records on the Florencia X3 gang.” Id. ¶ 5 & Attach. 2. As with the prior two requests, the Court denied the DOJ’s motion for summary judgment, see Pinson, 2016 WL 29245, at *13, the BOP hand-delivered a copy of that final response letter to Pinson, see 2d Christenson Decl. ¶ 4 & Ex. 1, and the DOJ now contends that its search was adequate, see Defs.’ 2d MSJ at 1-2.

         D. Request No. 2012-3706

         In January 2012, Pinson submitted a request to the BOP for the production of certain ADX Florence institution supplements. See 2d Christenson Decl. ¶¶ 25-26 & Ex. 6. Those supplements are documents that explain how national BOP policy will be implemented “at a local level.” See Id. ¶ 26. The request was assigned number 2012-3706 and, by letter dated March 15, 2012, the DOJ released 25 pages of responsive records in full and informed Pinson that the remaining institution supplements requested either did not exist or were cancelled (and thus no longer in force). See Id. ¶¶ 25, 28 & Ex. 7. The Court denied the DOJ’s prior motion for summary judgment with respect to this request, it has been hand-delivered to Pinson, and the DOJ again moves for summary judgment, this time on the ground that its search was adequate. See Defs.’ 2d MSJ at 1-2.

         E. Request No. 2013-2100

         On or about November 14, 2012, Pinson submitted a request to the BOP for “copies of all public comments submitted in connection with the promulgation” of certain proposed BOP regulations. See Baime Decl. Attach. 3. On December 4, 2012, the BOP issued a letter informing Pinson that the request-which had been assigned number 2013-2100-would not be processed because the requested records were not held by the BOP. See Id. ¶ 6 & Attach. 4. The request’s history follows similar lines as all of the above requests, and DOJ now argues that its search for responsive records was adequate. See Defs.’ 2d MSJ at 1-2.

         F. Request Nos. ...


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