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Hall v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 19, 2017

CALVIN JAMES HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff is a federal prisoner appearing pro se.[1] He has sued the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and the following DOJ components under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”): Executive Office for United States Attorneys (“EOUSA”), Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”), and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). Pending before the Court is the Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment, brought on behalf of all but the FBI, ECF No. 15.[2] Upon consideration of defendants' motion and reply, ECF No. 20, and plaintiff's opposition, ECF No. 17, and for the reasons explained below, the Court will grant summary judgment to ATF, the Criminal Division, and DEA, and dismiss the claim against BOP without prejudice, but deny relief to EOUSA.

         II. BACKGROUND

         As set out in Defendants' Statement of Material Facts Not in Genuine Dispute, ECF 15-7, the relevant occurrences are as follows.

         1. Request to ATF

         In a letter dated July 24, 2014, plaintiff requested “copies of any and all documents, records, papers, files, communications, notes, memos, logs, receipts, or information or data in any form, in any way related to involving, referencing or mentioning” himself or his U.S. district court criminal case number. Ex. A to Decl. of Stephanie M. Boucher, ECF No. 15-3. Following a search of its databases by plaintiff's name, social security number and date of birth, and inquiries to ATF's Louisville and Charlotte Field Divisions, ATF informed plaintiff by letter dated January 29, 2016, that it had located no responsive records, and it further informed plaintiff of his right to appeal to the Office of Information Policy (“OIP”) within 60 days of the decision. Id. ¶¶ 5-19 and Ex. C. OIP has no record of receiving an administrative appeal from plaintiff. Id. ¶ 22.

         2. Request to BOP

         On December 7, 2015, BOP received a request from plaintiff that sought “all phone records in the possession of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” Attach. 1 to Decl. of Ronald L. Rodgers, ECF No. 15-4. In a response dated that same day, BOP informed plaintiff that his request failed to “adequately describe a BOP record with enough details to allow us to conduct a search” and invited plaintiff to “resubmit with more details.” Attach. 2. On appeal from that determination, OIP agreed with BOP and invited plaintiff to submit a new request to BOP if he had “additional information about the specific phone records to which you are referring, such as whose phone records or what time period or which facility[.]” Attach. 5. OIP also informed plaintiff of his right to file a lawsuit. BOP has no record of receiving “any correspondence from plaintiff by which he sought to clarify his initial request[.]” Rodgers Decl. ¶ 9.

         3. Request to DEA

         On November 24, 2015, DEA received a request from plaintiff that sought

all arrest records, investigation reports, investigative reports, final and closing investigation reports, transcript order forms, internal memorandums from the prosecuting AUSA to the investigating agents mugshot profiles, the [DEA] case initiation memorandum, the agents handwritten notes and notations, draft exhibits, photographs, video tapes, audio tapes and all information, documents, data, reports pertaining to me.

         Ex. A to Decl. of Katherine L. Myrick, ECF No. 15-5. Following a search of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Information System (NADDIS) by plaintiff's name, social security number and date of birth, DEA informed plaintiff by letter dated December 3, 2015, that it had located no responsive records. Myrick Decl. ¶ 14 and Ex. B. By letter dated May 10, 2016, OIP informed plaintiff that “DEA's action was correct and that it conducted an adequate, reasonable search for such records”; it further informed plaintiff of his right to file a lawsuit. Ex. E.

         4. Request to the Criminal Division

         In a letter to the Criminal Division dated November 11, 2015, plaintiff requested the same records that he had requested from DEA, plus grand jury transcripts, “the prosecuting attorney's handwritten notes and notations, . . . witness lists, draft voir dire, legal research memorandas [sic], guilty plea transcripts, [and] cooperation agreements[.]” Decl. of Peter C. Sprung ¶ 6 and Ex. A, ECF No. 15-2. This request appears to have included a Certification of Identity signed by plaintiff. Id. By letter dated December 23, 2015, the Criminal Division informed plaintiff that his request for records about his prosecution was “misdirected” and was “routed to EOUSA for processing and a direct response to you.” Id., Ex. B. The letter included EOUSA's contact information should plaintiff “have any questions about the status of [his] routed request.” Id. Meanwhile, in an appeal to OIP also dated December 23, 2015, plaintiff stated that he had submitted a FOIA request to the Criminal Division and to EOUSA but had “not received any response from either agency.” Ex. C. In a letter dated March 1, 2016, OIP informed plaintiff that his appeal file was closed as moot in light of the Criminal Division's December 23, 2015 response to his request. Ex. D.

         During the course of this litigation, the Criminal Division “[o]ut of an abundance of caution” conducted a search on the chance that it might have responsive records if the prosecution involved electronic surveillance under Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (“Title III”). Sprung Decl. ¶ 12. The Criminal Division staff searched “the one records system that could possibly contain [responsive] information, ” that of the Electronic Surveillance Unit, but located no responsive records. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.

         5. ...


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