Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Parker v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 29, 2017

LONNIE J. PARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S RENEWED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S RENEWED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Lonnie Parker challenges the response of Defendant U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to his Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request, which seeks records in ICE's possession related to the agency's previous criminal investigation of him. Following the parties' first round of motions for summary judgment, the Court granted in part and denied in part ICE's motion, affirming ICE's decision to withhold portions of certain responsive records under FOIA Exemption 7, but requesting additional detail regarding ICE's search for responsive records. With its renewed motion for summary judgment, ICE argues that it has sufficiently demonstrated, through a new set of declarations, that it performed an adequate search designed to recover all records responsive to Mr. Parker's request. In his own renewed motion, Mr. Parker once again disagrees. And once again, this Court finds some portions of ICE's search adequate and sufficiently explained, and other portions inadequate or insufficiently explained. Therefore, this Court grants in part and denies in part both parties' renewed motions for summary judgment.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In early 2014, Mr. Parker filed a FOIA request with ICE seeking:

All records from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's office in Little Rock Arkansas [sic], listing my client's name (Lonnie Joseph Parker), or otherwise describing or discussing my client (Mr. Parker), that were created or generated from January 1, 1998 to January 31, 2006, currently located in any system of records in the possession or control of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (including any archived or stored records), in any form or format, including any handwritten notes, diagrams, emails, phone logs, photographs, maps, diagrams, spread sheets, or any other forms of records responsive to this records request.

FOIA Request, Ex. 1 at 1, ECF No. 17-3.

         Upon receipt of Mr. Parker's FOIA Request, ICE identified the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (“ERO”) and Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) as the locations most likely to have all responsive records. Decl. Fernando Pineiro (“Pineiro Decl.”) ¶ 23, ECF No. 18. ERO searched its Central Index System database, but was unable to find any responsive records. Pineiro Decl. ¶ 27. HSI searched its TECS system using Mr. Parker's name and located sixty pages of responsive records, which it released to Mr. Parker after withholding some portions of the records pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7. Pineiro Decl. ¶¶ 7, 28, 30. Mr. Parker filed suit in this Court thereafter. See Compl., ECF No. 1.

         After this suit began, “HSI determined that . . . additional responsive hard file records” might exist at ICE's Little Rock field office. Pineiro Decl. ¶ 31. HSI's Records Disclosure Unit tasked Special Agent Wayne Sanders, one of the two agents assigned to Mr. Parker's criminal case, with searching for those physical records because of “his experience and knowledge of the Little Rock office's storage of physical case file records.” Pineiro Decl. ¶ 31; Suppl. Pineiro Decl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 21-1. This hand search uncovered an additional 129 pages of records, which ICE released to Mr. Parker after redacting some portions pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7. Pineiro Decl. ¶¶ 31-33. Agent Sanders also searched his personal Outlook emails, including archived emails, and did not find any responsive records. 2d Pineiro Decl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 21-1.

         ICE subsequently moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it had performed an adequate search for responsive records and had produced such responsive records, excepting those portions that it had properly withheld, to Mr. Parker. See Def.'s 1st Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s 1st Mot.”), ECF No. 17-2. Mr. Parker also moved for summary judgment, challenging the adequacy of ICE's search for responsive records, but not its withholdings pursuant to Exemptions 6 and 7. See Pl.'s 1st Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s 1st Mot.”), ECF No. 19. More specifically, he challenged the adequacy of the search because ICE had not searched for all communication records (including emails) of the two agents assigned to his case, and because the agency's search had failed to uncover any records of communications between ICE and the the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) in connection with his criminal case. Pl.'s 1st Mot. at 6.

         The Court granted in part and denied in part ICE's motion and denied Mr. Parker's. See Parker v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enf't, 238 F.Supp.3d 89, 94-95 (D.D.C. 2017). The Court found that ICE had sufficiently justified its withholding of portions of the responsive documents pursuant to Exemption 7. Id. at 98, 101. However, the Court did not grant ICE summary judgment in full because the agency had not provided sufficient detail about the search terms used to search Agent Sanders's email account or the backup systems that potentially contained the emails of the other special agent assigned to the criminal investigation, Agent Mensinger, from the relevant time period. Id. at 101.

         Specifically, the Court first found that “ICE has provided insufficient detail as to the ‘search terms on the nature of that electronic search process' for Agent Sanders's email, ” because “[i]t is not enough for the agency to conclusorily state that it searched relevant records”; “instead, the agency must provide additional detail, including the search terms used.” Id. at 104 (citing Pl.'s Reply at 3, ECF No. 24). Second, the Court explained that in order for it to find for ICE, “Agent Sanders should also describe whether he communicated with the FBI via email during the relevant time period of the investigation of Mr. Parker. If so, and if the agency does not produce the emails, Agent Sanders should explain why these emails are not now likely to be retrievable.” Id. at 104 n.14. Third, the Court directed the agency to explain whether “any emails sent or received by Agent Sanders during the relevant time period would have migrated to the current Outlook system or whether they too would have remained on now-inaccessible recovery tapes.” Id. at 105 n.15. Fourth and finally, the Court held that in order for ICE to succeed on summary judgment, it would need to provide additional information about the backup systems that may contain Agent Mensinger's emails, as well as Mr. Sanders's older emails. Id. at 105. Therefore, it directed “ICE to provide an affidavit from an information-technology professional . . . that describes the email backup system potentially containing Agent Mensinger's emails with greater specificity and describes any practical obstacles to searching that system.” Id.

         ICE has now renewed its motion for summary judgment on the ground that the new declarations it submitted with its motion provide sufficient specificity as to how Agent Sanders searched his emails and how ICE searched its backup email system for responsive records, and that therefore the agency has now demonstrated that it has performed a search “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.” Def.'s Renewed Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”) at 1, ECF No. 35-1 (citing Weisberg v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 705 F.2d 1344, 1351 (D.C. Cir. 1983)). Mr. Parker has also filed a renewed motion for summary judgment, contesting ICE's assertion that it has demonstrated that it has performed an adequate search. Pl.'s Renewed Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Mot.”) at 3, ECF No. 37. The parties' renewed cross-motions for summary judgment are now ripe for decision.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         “FOIA cases typically and appropriately are decided on motions for summary judgment.” Defs. of Wildlife v. U.S. Border Patrol, 623 F.Supp.2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2009) (citing Bigwood v. U.S. Agency for Int'l Dev., 484 F.Supp.2d 68, 73 (D.D.C. 2007)). Summary judgment is appropriate where “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). A “material” fact is one capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the litigation. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if there is enough evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmovant. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a defendant agency must establish that it has conducted a search that is “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.” Weisberg, 705 F.2d at 1351. More specifically, the agency must demonstrate “that it made a good faith effort to conduct a search for the requested records, using methods which can be reasonably expected to produce the information requested.” Oglesby v. U.S. Dep't of the Army, 920 F.2d 57, 68 (D.C. Cir. 1990). “The adequacy of an agency's search is measured by a ‘standard of reasonableness' and is ‘dependent upon the circumstances of the case.'” Weisberg, 705 F.2d at 1351 (internal citations omitted). It is ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.