United States District Court, District of Columbia
MOHAMMED S. ROBLE, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.
S. CHUTKAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
appearing pro se, challenges the Executive Office
for United States Attorneys' (“EOUSA”) denial
of his request under the Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”) and the Privacy Act. The Department of
Justice, of which EOUSA is a component, has moved for summary
judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (ECF No.
10). For the reasons explained below, the motion will be
October 11, 2016, Plaintiff requested copies of “Grand
jury minutes (transcripts) taken on November 6th
2013” pertaining to his criminal indictment in the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (Decl. of Vinay
J. Jolly, ECF No. 10-1, Ex. A). Such records “were
originally maintained in the criminal case United States
v. Roble, No. 13-CF1-6095.” (Jolly Decl. ¶
9). Plaintiff wrote that he had “been provided with
several other transcripts from the grand jury . . . taken on
April 17, 19, 24th, May 10, 15 and
16th, 2013 prepared by your Office.” (Jolly
Decl., Ex. A).
letter of November 22, 2016, EOUSA denied Plaintiff's
request on the erroneous premise that he had sought
third-party records. (Id., Ex. B). Plaintiff
appealed to the Office of Information Policy
(“OIP”), which accurately described the request
as seeking “access to grand jury minutes from
[Plaintiff's] criminal case recorded on November 6,
2013” but nonetheless affirmed EOUSA's denial
“on modified grounds.” (Id., Ex. E). OIP
explained: “To the extent that the specific grand jury
records that you seek exist, any such records would be
protected from disclosure pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §
552(b)(3), ” which “concerns matters specifically
exempted from release by a statute other than the FOIA[,
]” (Ex. E). OIP cited “Rule 6(e) of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure, which pertains to the secrecy of
grand jury proceedings.” (Id.). It stated that
because any responsive records “would be categorically
exempt from disclosure, EOUSA was not required to conduct a
search for the requested records.” (Id.). OIP
advised Plaintiff of his right to file this lawsuit, which
commenced on April 19, 2017.
judgment is appropriate where the record shows there is no
genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986); Waterhouse v. District of Columbia, 298 F.3d
989, 991 (D.C. Cir. 2002). “FOIA cases typically and
appropriately are decided on motions for summary
judgment.” Georgacarakos v. FBI, 908 F.Supp.2d
176, 180 (D.D.C. 2012) (citation omitted). The district court
conducts a de novo review of the government's
decision to withhold requested documents under any of
FOIA's specific statutory exemptions. See 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). The burden is on the government
agency to show that nondisclosed, requested material falls
within a stated exemption. See Petroleum Info. Corp. v.
U.S. Dep't of Interior, 976 F.2d 1429, 1433 (D.C.
Cir. 1992) (citing 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B)).
cases, summary judgment may be based solely on information
provided in the agency's supporting declarations. See
ACLU v. U.S. Dep't of Def., 628 F.3d 612, 619 (D.C.
Cir. 2011); Students Against Genocide v. Dep't of
State, 257 F.3d 828, 838 (D.C. Cir. 2001). The D.C.
If an agency's affidavit describes the justifications for
withholding the information with specific detail,
demonstrates that the information withheld logically falls
within the claimed exemption, and is not contradicted by
contrary evidence in the record or by evidence of the
agency's bad faith, then summary judgment is warranted on
the basis of the affidavit alone.
ACLU, 628 F.3d at 619. “Ultimately, an
agency's justification for invoking a FOIA exemption is
sufficient if it appears ‘logical' or
‘plausible.'” Id. (quoting
Larson v. Dep't of State, 565 F.3d 857, 862
(D.C. Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
“To successfully challenge an agency's showing that
it complied with the FOIA, the plaintiff must come forward
with ‘specific facts' demonstrating that there is a
genuine issue with respect to whether the agency has
improperly withheld extant agency records.” Span v.
U.S. Dep't of Justice, 696 F.Supp.2d 113, 119
(D.D.C. 2010) (quoting Dep't of Justice v. Tax
Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 142 (1989)).
asserts correctly that disclosure of the requested records is
not required under the Privacy Act because the criminal files
of the United States Attorneys' Offices have been
properly exempted from that Act's access provisions.
(See Def.'s Mem. at 4-5, ECF No. 10) (citing
Jolly Decl. ¶ 10 and 5 U.S.C. § 552a (j)(2)).
Because the Privacy Act excepts from its coverage documents
required to be disclosed under the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. §
552a(b)(2), EOUSA duly proceeded “under the provisions
of the FOIA.” (Jolly Decl. ¶ 11).