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Evans v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 5, 2018

MICHAEL S. EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BERYL A. HOWELL, Chief Judge

         The plaintiff brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), a component of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”). BOP has now moved for summary judgment, Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16, which motion is granted, for the reasons discussed below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff is a federal prisoner who, while incarcerated at the Gilmer Federal Correctional Institution in Glenville, West Virginia (“FCI Gilmer”), “was involved in a fight in the prison dining room[.]” Def.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mem.”), at 1, ECF No. 16-1. The plaintiff claims to have been “brutally attacked, and stabbed, by surprise” with a Phillips-head screwdriver by another inmate. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”), filed with Pl.'s Aff. & Reply to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. by Pl. Michael S. Evans (“Pl.'s Decl.”) ¶ 2, ECF No. 19. In contrast, BOP staff consider the incident “a fight between [the plaintiff] and his attacker, ” Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 4, for which the plaintiff was sanctioned, see id. ¶¶ 3-5, 9.

         Subsequently, the plaintiff “pursued civil actions and suits under the Federal Tort Claims Act and Bivens - 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the BOP based upon its officers['] delayed response and intervention i. . ., and their failure to properly secure the tool used to stab [him].” Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 6. These efforts proved unsuccessful - the suits “were ultimately dismissed based on the BOP's disclaiming ownership of the tool used in [the] attack and stabbing.” Id. ¶ 8. “In order for [the plaintiff] to effectively address [his] legal issue[s], ” Compl., Ex. A at 1, in February 2016, the plaintiff submitted a request to the BOP for the following information:

• Names, numbers, and addresses to all companies that shipped and/or delivered tools, recreation equipment, maintenance equipment, and machines to [FCI Gilmer] from January 2003, to June 2013.
• . . . Receiving and Departure Logs for all tools, recreation equipment, maintenance equipment, and machines shipped and/or delivered to [FCI Gilmer] from January 2003, to, June 2013.
• Names and pictures of all tools, recreation equipment, maintenance equipment, and machines shipped and/or delivered to [FCI Gilmer] from January 2003, to, June 2013.
• A copy of the video footage of the May 02, 2013 incident of Michael Evans being ass[a]ulted in the inmate din[]ing area at [FCI Gilmer].

Id., Ex. A at 1-2. BOP staff estimated that the cost of its response to the request would be $14, 320.00. See generally Def.'s Mem., Decl. of Sharon Wahl (“Wahl Decl.”), Ex. 2. The plaintiff was offered an opportunity to pay the estimated cost in full, or to reformulate his request “to meet [his] needs at a lower cost.” Wahl Decl., Ex. 2 at 1. Opting for the latter, the plaintiff modified his request as follows:

I want to be provided with a copy of the video footage of the May 02, 2013 incident of Michael Evans being assaulted in the inmate dinning [sic] area at F.C.I. Gilmer.
I enclosed a picture of a Phillips head screwdriver, the screwdriver may have been a[] maintenance accessory tool that came with recreaction [sic], or maintenance equipment. I would like the name of the company that made the tool, along with the phone number and mailing address of that company. I would like to know what is the tool used for and what equipment it came with, and when that equipment was delivered to F.C.I. Gilmer[.]

Wahl Decl., Ex. 3.

         BOP staff located one video recording responsive to the plaintiff's request. See id. ΒΆ 9. By letter, dated April 19, 2016, the BOP notified the plaintiff: (1) it withheld the video in full under FOIA Exemptions 2, 7(C), 7(E), and 7(F); (2) it was not required to respond to the plaintiff's inquiries or to create records in response to a FOIA request; and (3) ...


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