United States District Court, District of Columbia
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
three separate occasions, Plaintiff Martin Sanchez-Alanis, a
federal prisoner, requested records from the Bureau of
Prisons (“BOP”) under the Freedom of Information
Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. When BOP
failed to respond to the requests, Plaintiff filed a pro
se “Petition for Preliminary Injunction”
(hereafter “Complaint”) to compel the release of
records and expungement of a disciplinary report. BOP has
released responsive records and has moved for summary
judgment on Plaintiff's FOIA claim. BOP has also moved to
dismiss Plaintiff's claims brought under the Privacy Act,
5 U.S.C. § 552a, and for a writ of
mandamus. Plaintiff has filed a “Cross Motion
for Summary Judgment and Request for Declaratory and
Injunctive Relief for a Pattern or Practice of Illegal
Conduct.” For the reasons that follow, the Court will
grant Defendant's motion, deny Plaintiff's motion,
and close the case.
October 2014, Plaintiff requested a copy of his
“transfer file, ” specifically including: (1)
investigative reports, (2) threat assessment reports, (3)
recommendations of Special Investigative Services, (4)
memoranda, (5) statements, (6) emails, (7) disciplinary
reports, (8) Disciplinary Hearing Officer reports, (9)
security designation reports, (10) management variables, (11)
security level reports, and (12) final transfer request.
Attach. 1 to Decl. of Christi Treadway, ECF No. 14-1 at 11.
In response to this lawsuit, BOP searched Plaintiff's
Inmate Central File, located six responsive pages, and
released all of them to Plaintiff on August 4,
2016. Five of the released pages contained
redacted material. Treadway Decl. ¶ 9 and Attach. 2. BOP
withheld information under FOIA exemptions 5, 6, 7(C), 7(E)
and 7(F). Id.
August 2015, Plaintiff requested “a copy of the
Disciplinary Hearing Officers Report (DHO Report)”
issued in 2006 by a hearing officer at FCI Seagoville in
Texas and in 2009 by a hearing officer at FCI Yazoo City in
Mississippi. Attach. 3 to Treadway Decl. Following searches
of Plaintiff's Inmate Central File and “Archived
DHO reports, ” BOP located and released seven redacted
pages to Plaintiff on August 4, 2016. Treadway Decl.
¶¶ 15-16 and Attach. 4. BOP withheld information
under FOIA exemptions 6, 7(C), and 7(F). Id.
August 2015, Plaintiff requested a copy of his “initial
request for records dated September 12, 2012 related to
[FOIA] request No. 13-10945” and a copy of “the
envelope/wrapper” containing the request. Attach. 5 to
Treadway Decl. Following a search, BOP released three pages
to Plaintiff in full on August 4, 2016, and informed
Plaintiff that it could not locate the envelope. Attach. 6.
cases typically and appropriately are decided on motions for
summary judgment.” Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S.
Border Patrol, 623 F.Supp.2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2009). In
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court assumes the
truth of the non-movant's evidence and draws all
reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). “[S]ummary judgment may be granted only if the
moving party proves that no substantial and material facts
are in dispute and that he is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Lamb v. Millennium Challenge
Corp., 228 F.Supp.3d 28, 37 (D.D.C. 2017) (internal
citation omitted); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
created FOIA “to pierce the veil of administrative
secrecy and to open agency action to the light of public
scrutiny.” ACLU v. DOJ, 655 F.3d 1, 5 (D.C.
Cir. 2011) (quoting U.S. Dep't of the Air Force v.
Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 361 (1976)). Despite this broad
mandate, FOIA contains a set of exceptions to the general
obligation to provide government records to the public.
See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). These exemptions are in
place “to balance the public's interest in
governmental transparency against the ‘legitimate
governmental and private interests [that] could be harmed by
release of certain types of information.'”
United Techs. Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Defense,
601 F.3d 557, 559 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting Critical
Mass. Energy Project v. Nuclear Reg. Comm'n, 975
F.2d 871, 872 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (en banc)). FOIA
“mandates a strong presumption in favor of disclosure,
” and its “statutory exemptions, which are
exclusive, are to be ‘narrowly construed.'”
Nat'l Ass'n of Home Builders v. Norton, 309
F.3d 26, 32 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Department of Air
Force v. Rose, 425 U.S. 352, 361 (1976)).
government therefore bears the burden to establish that the
claimed FOIA exemptions apply to each document for which they
are invoked. ACLU v. U.S. Dep't of Defense, 628
F.3d 612, 619 (D.C. Cir. 2011). It may satisfy this burden
through declarations that describe the justifications for its
withholdings in “specific detail, demonstrat[ing] that
the information withheld logically falls within the claimed
exemption.” Id. But agency affidavits will not
warrant summary judgment if the plaintiff puts forth contrary
evidence or demonstrates the agency's bad faith.
Privacy Act imposes a set of substantive obligations on
agencies that maintain systems of records, including the
requirement that records used in making determinations about
individuals be accurately maintained.” Skinner v.
U.S. Dep't of Justice and Bureau of Prisons, 584
F.3d 1093, 1096 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (citing 5 U.S.C. §
552a(e)(5)). The Act provides civil remedies for its
violation, including court-ordered amendment of records and
money damages, but it also permits agencies to exempt
themselves “from many of the obligations it
imposes.” Id. Challenges to an agency's
refusal to correct records are reviewed de novo. Mueller
v. Winter, 485 F.3d 1191, 1196 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (citing
5 U.S.C. § 552a(g)(2)(A); White v. Office of Pers.
Mgmt., 787 F.2d 660, 663 (D.C. Cir. 1986)).