United States District Court, District of Columbia
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge
Defendants' Supplemental Motion for Summary
in prison, pro se plaintiff Jeremy Pinson filed
multiple Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”)
requests seeking records from various components of the U.S.
Department of Justice (“DOJ”). In addition to
releasing a number of records to Pinson, the DOJ asked Pinson
to clarify some of her records requests, told her that it could
not find records responsive to some of her requests, and
informed her that some of the records she sought were exempt
from disclosure by law. Pinson filed a complaint challenging
some of these determinations and alleging that the DOJ
improperly withheld records.
issue in this Opinion is the propriety of the Bureau of
Prisons' (“BOP”) withholdings from two
memoranda that it released in part. Each memorandum documents
the Special Administrative Measures (“SAMs”)
imposed on an individual in BOP custody. The DOJ moves for
summary judgment as to the propriety of the withholdings,
arguing that the BOP correctly applied FOIA Exemptions 6,
7(C), 7(E), and 7(F). See Defs.' Suppl. MSJ, ECF
No. 318. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants
the DOJ's motion for summary judgment.
Court has already explained the factual background in detail
in a prior Memorandum Opinion. See Mem. Op.,
Pinson v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 2016 WL 29245,
at *1-5 (D.D.C. Jan. 4, 2016), ECF No. 259. The Court assumes
familiarity with its prior opinion and confines its
discussion to the facts most relevant to the present motion.
2010, Pinson submitted a FOIA request to the DOJ's Office
of Information Policy (“OIP”) seeking
“any correspondence or electronic messages generated
after January 21, 2009 by the Attorney General, or staff
within the Attorney General's office, addressed to or
intended for the Director of the Federal Bureau of
Prisons.” Decl. Vanessa R. Brinkmann (Brinkmann Decl.)
¶ 4 & Ex. A, ECF No. 131-3. The records responsive
to this request included two SAMs memoranda-one from 2009 and
one from 2010.
are special conditions of confinement implemented by the
Attorney General with regards to a specific inmate as
“reasonably necessary to protect persons against the
risk of death or serious bodily injury.” 28 C.F.R.
§ 501.3(a). These measures may include limitations on
the individual's access to the mail, media, telephone,
and visitors. See Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. at 11-
12, ECF No. 239 (citing Decl. Ronald L. Rodgers ¶ 12(a),
ECF No. 239-1). The SAMs memoranda at issue here memorialize
the Attorney General's SAMs decisions with respect to two
inmates and recount in detail the criminal conduct of the
individuals subject to the orders, those individuals'
continued threat to public safety, and the terms of the SAMs
themselves. See Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. at 11-12,
ECF No. 239. The 2009 SAMs memorandum concerned a convicted
prisoner, and the 2010 SAMs memorandum concerned a pretrial
detainee. 4th Christenson Decl. ¶¶ 6-7.
initial response to Pinson, the DOJ withheld, inter
alia, the entirety of both memoranda. See
Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. at 11, ECF No. 239. However, after
this Court denied the DOJ summary judgment on its
withholdings, the BOP re-processed Pinson's request and
released both SAMs memoranda in part, with some redactions.
4th Christenson Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, 49 & Ex. E;
see also Mem. Op., Pinson, 2016 WL 4074130,
at *4, ECF No. 306. The BOP now claims that it has properly
withheld portions of the SAMs memoranda pursuant to FOIA
Exemptions 6, 7(C), 7(E), and 7(F). See Letter to
Pinson, ECF No. 318-2. The DOJ again moves for summary
judgment on the grounds that it has properly applied FOIA
exemptions and released all segregable material. Defs.'
Suppl. MSJ at 1-2.
not secrecy, is the dominant objective of [FOIA].”
Dep't of the Air Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352,
361 (1976). “Consistent with this purpose, agencies may
withhold only those documents or portions thereof that fall
under one of nine delineated statutory exemptions.”
Elliot v. USDA, 596 F.3d 842, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2010)
(citing 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)). “[T]he exemptions are
‘explicitly exclusive.'” U.S. Dep't
of Justice v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 151 (1989)
(quoting FAA Adm'r v. Robertson, 422 U.S. 255,
the agency's burden to show that withheld material falls
within one of these exemptions. See 5 U.S.C. §
552(a)(4)(B); Elliott, 596 F.3d at 845. “The
[C]ourt . . . ‘impose[s] a substantial burden on an
agency seeking to avoid disclosure' through the FOIA
exemptions.” Morley v. CIA, 508 F.3d 1108,
1114 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (quoting Vaughn v. Rosen, 484
F.2d 820, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1973)) (alteration in original).
Accordingly, disclosure exemptions are “narrowly
construed, ” and “‘conclusory and
generalized allegations of exemptions' are
unacceptable.” See Morley, 508 F.3d at 1114-15
(quoting Founding Church of Scientology of Wash., D. C.,
Inc. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 610 F.2d 824, 830 (D.C.
Cir. 1979)). However, courts generally respect the factual
reasoning of agencies, and “[u]ltimately an
agency's justification for invoking a FOIA exemption is
sufficient if it appears ‘logical' or
‘plausible.'” Wolf v. CIA, 473 F.3d
370, 374-75 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (quoting Gardels v.
CIA, 689 F.2d 1100, 1105 (D.C. Cir. 1982)). Thus,
“a reviewing court should ‘respect the expertise
of an agency' and not ‘overstep the proper limits
of the judicial role in FOIA review.'” Pinson
v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 160 F.Supp.3d 285, 293
(D.D.C. 2016) (quoting Hayden v. Nat'l Sec.
Agency/Cent. Sec. Serv., 608 F.2d 1381, 1388 (D.C. Cir.
cases typically and appropriately are decided on motions for
summary judgment.” Defs. of Wildlife v. U.S. Border
Patrol, 623 F.Supp.2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2009) (citing
Bigwood v. U.S. Agency for Int'l Dev., 484
F.Supp.2d 68, 73 (D.D.C. 2007)). Under Rule 56 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment must be granted
when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on
file, and any affidavits show “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);
see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 247 (1986).
when the requester does not explicitly challenge a
withholding, the court must independently consider if the
agency has shown that the undisputed material facts entitle
it to summary judgment. See Winston & Strawn, LLP v.
McLean, 843 F.3d 503, 505 (D.C. Cir. 2016)
(“‘The nonmoving party's failure to oppose
summary judgment does not shift [the moving party's]
burden.' The District Court ‘must always determine
for itself whether the record and any undisputed material
facts justify granting summary judgment.'” (quoting
Grimes v. District of Columbia, 794 F.3d 83, 97
(D.C. Cir. 2015) (Griffith, J., concurring))). Even though
Pinson does not respond to some portions of the DOJ's
motion for summary judgment, the court cannot grant the
motion on the basis that it was conceded. See Id. at
505 (“Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
motion for summary judgment cannot be ‘conceded'
for want of opposition.” (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because it
properly applied FOIA Exemptions 6, 7(C), 7(E), and 7(F) to
withhold portions of both SAMs memoranda. See
generally Defs.' Suppl. MSJ, ECF No. 318; 4th
Christenson Decl. Because all of the portions of the records
withheld under Exemptions 6 or 7(F) were also withheld under
Exemptions 7(C) or 7(E),  and the Court concludes,
infra, that Exemptions ...