United States District Court, District of Columbia
A. HOWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.
plaintiff, Joseph Emanuel, filed this lawsuit under the
Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C.
§ 552, to compel disclosure of records maintained by the
Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) pertaining to an
incident report. BOP released records, and its parent agency,
the Department of Justice, has moved for summary judgment
under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF
No. 15. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions
and the entire record, and for the reasons that follow, the
Court grants the defendant's motion and enters judgment
plaintiff is a federal prisoner incarcerated at the U.S.
Penitentiary in Jonesville, Virginia. In October 2015, the
“Plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the Bureau of
Prisons seeking all records relating to Incident Report No.
2761076.” Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts as to
Which There is No Genuine Issue (“Def.'s
Facts”) ¶ 1. BOP located fifteen responsive pages
and released all but two pages on October 29, 2015. Seven of
the thirteen released pages contained redacted material.
Id. ¶ 5 (citing Decl. of Dominick Desanto
¶ 5, ECF No. 22-1).
January 11, 2017, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit to compel
“ ‘full' disclosure of the photos in regards
to Incident Report No.: ‘2761076' in relation to
Incident of Possession of a Weapon (Homemade Knife), ”
which occurred in September 2015 and for which the plaintiff
was sanctioned. Compl. at 6, 8, ECF No. 1. In response, BOP
“re-processed plaintiff's original FOIA
request” and released all fifteen responsive pages on
March 10, 2017. Ten pages contained redacted material
pursuant to FOIA exemptions 6, 7(C), and 7(F), codified in 5
U.S.C. § 552(b). Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 7-8
(citing Desanto Decl. ¶¶ 6, 7). The release
included “an evidence photograph of the weapon, ”
with the names of BOP staff redacted pursuant to exemptions
6, 7(C) and 7(F). Desanto Decl. ¶ 8.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment
shall be granted “if the movant shows 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). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the
“absence of a genuine issue of material fact” in
dispute, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986), while the nonmoving party must present specific facts
supported by materials in the record that would be admissible
at trial and that could enable a reasonable jury to find in
its favor, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.
(“Liberty Lobby”), 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986);
Allen v. Johnson, 795 F.3d 34, 38 (D.C. Cir. 2015)
(noting that, on summary judgment, appropriate inquiry is
“whether, on the evidence so viewed, ‘a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party'” (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S.
at 248)). “[T]hese general standards under [R]ule 56
apply with equal force in the FOIA context, ”
Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health &
Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989), and
the D.C. Circuit has observed that “‘the vast
majority of FOIA cases can be resolved on summary judgment,
'” Brayton v. Office of U.S. Trade
Representative, 641 F.3d 521, 527 (D.C. Cir. 2011).
courts are authorized under the FOIA “to enjoin the
agency from withholding agency records and to order the
production of any agency records improperly withheld from the
complainant.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). An improper
withholding occurs when an agency withholds information that
is not protected by nine exemptions set forth in the statute
or fails to conduct an adequate search for responsive
material. When an agency's response to a FOIA request is
to withhold responsive records, either in whole or in part,
the agency “bears the burden of proving the
applicability of claimed exemptions.” Am. Civil
Liberties Union v. U.S. Dep't of Def.
(“ACLU/DOD”), 628 F.3d 612, 619 (D.C. Cir.
agency may carry its burden of properly invoking an exemption
by submitting sufficiently detailed affidavits or
declarations, a Vaughn index of the withheld
documents, or both, to demonstrate that the government has
analyzed carefully any material withheld, to enable the court
to fulfill its duty of ruling on the applicability of the
exemption, and to enable the adversary system to operate by
giving the requester as much information as possible, on the
basis of which the requester's case may be presented to
the trial court. See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Secret
Serv., 726 F.3d 208, 215 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (“In
FOIA cases, ‘summary judgment may be granted on the
basis of agency affidavits if they contain reasonable
specificity of detail rather than merely conclusory
statements, and if they are not called into question by
contradictory evidence in the record or by evidence of agency
bad faith.'” (alteration adopted) (quoting
Consumer Fed'n of Am. v. Dep't of Agric.,
455 F.3d 283, 287 (D.C. Cir. 2006))); Oglesby v. U.S.
Dep't of Army, 79 F.3d 1172, 1176 (D.C. Cir. 1996)
(instructing that agency affidavit “should reveal as
much detail as possible as to the nature of the document,
without actually disclosing information that deserves
protection[, ] . . . [which] serves the purpose of providing
the requestor with a realistic opportunity to challenge the
agency's decision” (citation omitted));
Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v.
U.S. Dep't of Justice, 746 F.3d 1082, 1088 (D.C.
Cir. 2014) (noting that agency's burden is sustained by
submitting affidavits that “describe the justifications
for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail,
demonstrate that the information withheld logically falls
within the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by
either contrary evidence in the record nor by evidence of
agency bad faith”) (quoting Larson v. U.S.
Dep't of State, 565 F.3d 857, 862 (D.C. Cir. 2009)).
“Ultimately, an agency's justification for invoking
a FOIA exemption is sufficient if it appears
‘logical' or ‘plausible.' ”
ACLU/DOD, 628 F.3d at 619 (internal quotation marks
omitted) (quoting Larson v. Dep't of State, 565
F.3d 857, 862 (D.C. Cir. 2009)).
plaintiff challenges the defendant's releases due to
certain discrepancies he observed and redactions of
third-party names. As discussed below, these challenges are
The Plaintiff's Rebuttal
plaintiff compares the twice released photograph page and
asserts that a genuine issue of material fact exists with
regard to BOP's “amended release” because (1)
the redactions are different from those appearing in the
initial release; (2) the photograph of the weapon “was
altered to a dark appearance”; and (3) exemption 7(C)
was added to exemption 7(F) as a basis for the
withholdings. Opp'n at 6 and Exs. 1 and 2, ECF No.
17. In its reply filed on June 26, 2017, the defendant shows
that the entire photo page was re-released to the plaintiff,
with only the names of two BOP employees redacted under FOIA
exemptions 7(C) and 7(F). See Reply at 1-2 and Ex.
A, ECF No. 18, 18-1. In addition, the defendant released
“[a] more legible copy of . . . two [previously
released] pages, ” Reply at 2 and Ex. B, in response to
the plaintiff's criticism of the “redacted
version[s] of the two pages [purportedly] released for
review.” Opp'n at 7 and Ex. 3. Consequently,
those aspects of the plaintiff's claims are moot. See
Bayala v. United States Dep't of Homeland Sec., Office of
Gen. Counsel, 827 F.3d 31, 34 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (agreeing
“that any dispute over the earlier withholding of the
documents that the Department has now turned over is moot,
” but “only with regard to those