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Wren v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 19, 2017

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.



         On October 14, 2015, plaintiff Dajuan Lamarr Wren, a federal prisoner, filed a request under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, [1] and the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 ("FOIA"), seeking information from the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") about a particular Special Agent's training, employment history, and experience testifying in criminal trials. Compl. [Dkt. # 1] at 1-3; Ex. A to Compl. ("FOIA Request"). After the DEA denied plaintiffs request, he filed this lawsuit, pro se, against the DEA and the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Compl. at 1-2. In response to the lawsuit, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which is now pending before the Court. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 12] ("Defs.'Mot").

         While this lawsuit was pending, defendants provided plaintiff with much of the information that he sought in his FOIA request. For the limited information that remains at issue, the Court will grant defendants' motion. The government is not required to disclose information under FOIA where no such record exists. And because plaintiff is not eligible or entitled to fees, the Court will deny that request as well.


         On October 14, 2015, plaintiff submitted a request under FOIA and the Privacy Act to the DBA, seeking information about Special Agent Bryan Sartori, who had testified in plaintiffs criminal trial. Compl. at 4; FOIA Request. Plaintiff requested the following information:

(a) The date Special Agent Sartori was hired by the DBA;
(b) His law enforcement experience, including his dates of employment prior to joining the DBA;
(c) The dates he was trained at Quantico, Virginia;
(d) His history of field postings following training; and
(e) A list of criminal cases in which he has testified, including the case names, case numbers, and the court(s) name and location(s).

See FOIA Request. In a letter dated November 5, 2015, the DBA responded that it would not conduct any searches for the requested records without "consent, proof of death, overriding public interest" because "any non-public records responsive to [plaintiffs] request would be categorically exempt from disclosure" under FOIA Exemption 7(C). Ex. B. to Compl. [Dkt. # 1].

         Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal by letter dated November 19, 2015, asserting that the requested information was "neither non-public in nature nor an invasion of . . . personal privacy, " and he pointed out in that letter that Special Agent Sartori had already testified to much of this information during plaintiffs January 2011 criminal trial in "the Eastern Judicial District of Michigan, Criminal Case number 10-20137." Ex. C to Compl. [Dkt. # 1]. The DOJ's Office of Information Policy rejected plaintiffs appeal, citing FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C). Ex. D to Compl. [Dkt. # 1] ("Because any non-public records responsive to your request would be categorically exempt from disclosure, the FBI[2] properly asserted [FOIA] Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and was not required to conduct a search for the requested records."); see also Decl. of Katherine L. Myrick [Dkt. # 12-1] ("Myrick Decl.") ¶ 9.

         Plaintiff then filed this lawsuit and defendants moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff opposed the motion, and in his opposition, he attached pages of the transcript from the criminal trial in which Special Agent Sartori testified as to many of the facts covered by his request. Pl.'s Opp. to Defs.' Mot. ("Pl.'s Opp."); Ex. 1 to Pl.'s Opp. [Dkt. # 14]. In their reply brief, defendants represented that plaintiff had, "for the first time, provided portions of the transcript from his criminal trial, " in which Special Agent Sartori "testified about the biographical information that [p]laintiff sought in his FOIA request." Reply in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 20] ("Defs.' Reply") at 1-2. While defendants maintained their position that the information would likely still be protected by Exemptions 6 and 7(C), in the interest of avoiding "needlessly extend[ed] litigation, " they provided the information sought by the first four parts of plaintiff s FOIA request. Id. at 2-3; see also Decl. of Diane E. Filler [Dkt. # 20-1] ("Filler Decl."). The Court appreciates the defendants' decision to review their initial position and to make material available to plaintiff.

         The only information that remains at issue is a list "of criminal cases in which [Special Agent Sartori] has testified, including case name and case number, and the court(s) name and location(s)." See FOIA Request. Defendants claim that the DEA does not maintain a system of records that contains that information, and that even if such information existed, it would be exempt from disclosure under Exemptions 6 and 7(C). See Myrick Decl. ΒΆ 12. Plaintiff was granted leave to file a surreply; he did not respond to defendants' position on the remaining category of documents, but he did argue that ...

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