United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER United States District Judge.
Watch, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, filed a Freedom of
Information Act request seeking records from the Federal
Bureau of Investigation regarding any interviews of
high-level Obama administration officials concerning Rod
Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois.
with FBI's decision to withhold certain records, Judicial
Watch has sued. The government now moves for summary judgment
in its favor, arguing that it has met its FOIA obligations.
Judicial Watch has also made a cross-motion for summary
judgment in its favor. Upon review of the entire record, the
Court agrees with the government; the Court will grant its
motion and deny Judicial Watch's cross-motion.
Judicial Watch's FOIA Request
9, 2012, Judicial Watch submitted a FOIA request via
certified mail and fax to FBI's Record/Information
Dissemination Section (RIDS). See Decl. of David M.
Hardy (Hardy Decl.) Ex. A, Judicial Watch Freedom of
Information Act Request (FOIA Request) [Dkt. 13-2] at 1. This
request sought records related to any and all FBI interviews
with Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Valerie Jarrett that
concerned Rod Blagojevich. Id.
Blagojevich was criminally charged with multiple
corruption-related crimes in 2008 after a federal
investigation into his activities. Decl. of Debra Riggs
Bonamici (Bonamici Decl.) [Dkt. 13-3] ¶¶ 5-6. After
two trials, Mr. Blagojevich was convicted and appealed to the
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The
Seventh Circuit ultimately affirmed his conviction, see
United States v. Blagojevich, 854 F.3d 918 (7th Cir.
2017), and denied rehearing en banc, see
Order, Blagojevich, No. 16-3254, ECF No. 53 (7th
Cir. June 5, 2017). The parties briefed the instant motions
while Mr. Blagojevich was continuing his appeal; the public
record indicates that, at the time of this Memorandum
Opinion's writing, the Supreme Court had most recently
granted Mr. Blagojevich an extension of time to file a writ
of certiorari to November 11, 2017. See Notice,
Blagojevich, No. 16-3254, ECF No. 56 (7th Cir.
August 4, 2017).
FBI, a constituent entity of the Department of Justice,
acknowledged receipt of the FOIA Request on May 23, 2012, and
began searching for responsive records. Hardy Decl. ¶ 6.
FBI RIDS employees searched FBI's Central Records System
(CRS), a centralized records system encompassing the entire
FBI organization, using the system's Automated Case
Support (ACS), an electronic case management system.
Id. ¶¶ 16-18; 22. RIDS searched ACS using
a phonetic breakdown of the name “Rod
Blagojevich” and then used further keyword searches
within those records using the names of the individuals named
in the FOIA request.
search identified only three FD-302 forms, which are forms
used to summarize “important facts and statements made
by a potential witness in the course of an interview
conducted by FBI Special Agents, sometimes in conjunction
with federal prosecutors.” Bonamici Decl. ¶ 7.
After concluding this search, FBI determined that all three
FD-302s were exempt from disclosure because they were
contained in a pending law enforcement investigative file,
and informed Judicial Watch of this fact. Hardy Decl. ¶
23. The FBI also performed a review of the responsive
material after Judicial Watch filed this lawsuit, which
yielded no additional records. Id. Thus all records
responsive to Judicial Watch's request were withheld as
filing a series of administrative appeals with DOJ, Judicial
Watch filed this lawsuit on September 21, 2016. On April 13,
2017, DOJ filed its Motion for Summary Judgment, see
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (DOJ MSJ) [Dkt. 13]. Judicial Watch
filed its Opposition, see Pl.'s Opp'n [Dkt.
15] and simultaneously filed a Cross-Motion for Summary
Judgment, see Pl.'s Cross-Mot. Summ. J.
(Judicial Watch MSJ) [Dkt. 16]. DOJ responded, see
Def.'s Opp'n [Dkt. 17] and Def.'s Reply [Dkt.
18], and Judicial Watch submitted a final reply, see
Pl.'s Reply [Dkt. 21]. The matter is now ripe for the
VENUE AND JURISDICTION
552(a)(4)(B) of the U.S. Code grants subject matter
jurisdiction over all actions brought under FOIA, and makes
this an appropriate forum for venue purposes. 5 U.S.C. §
552(a)(4)(B) (2012) (“On complaint, the district court
of the United States in the district in which the complainant
resides, or has his principal place of business, or in which
the agency records are situated, or in the District of
Columbia, has jurisdiction to enjoin the agency from
withholding agency records and to order the production of any
agency records improperly withheld from the
complainant.”); see Jones v. Nuclear Regulatory
Comm'n, 654 F.Supp. 130, 131 (D.D.C. 1987).
Court's jurisdiction under FOIA extends only to claims
arising from the improper withholding of agency records.
See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B); see also
Lazaridis v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 713 F.Supp.2d
64, 66 ...