United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
months before the 2016 presidential election, on June 27,
2016, former President Bill Clinton met with then Attorney
General Loretta Lynch on board an airplane parked on the
tarmac at a Phoenix airport. The meeting prompted speculation
and attacks from critics as to whether the two had discussed
the Department of Justice's investigation into Democratic
nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's
Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) suit concerns
records generated in the wake of the June 2016 meeting.
Plaintiff American Center for Law and Justice submitted a
FOIA request to the FBI seeking a variety of records related
to the Clinton-Lynch meeting. What remains of this case is
quite narrow. At issue are Defendant Department of
Justice's redaction of two records under FOIA Exemptions
6 and 7(C) and Exemption 5, respectively. For the reasons
that follow, the court concludes that the redactions are
proper and enters judgment in favor of Defendant.
15, 2016, Plaintiff American Center for Law and Justice
submitted a FOIA request to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (“FBI”), a component of Defendant
Department of Justice. Compl., ECF No. 1, Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1.
Plaintiff sought “any and all records pertaining to
Attorney General Loretta Lynch's meeting with former
President Bill Clinton on June 27, 2016, which occurred on
her airplane at the Sky Harbor International Airport in
Phoenix, Arizona.” Id. at 1, 9, 17. On October
21, 2016, the FBI answered Plaintiff's FOIA request,
reporting that it had not located any responsive records.
Compl., Ex. C, ECF No. 1-3.
August 10, 2017, however, the FBI reopened Plaintiff's
FOIA request and informed Plaintiff that it had found
potentially responsive records. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.,
ECF No. 14 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], Decl. of David M.
Hardy, ECF No. 14-2 [hereinafter Hardy Decl.], ¶ 13. One
month later, Plaintiff filed the action before the court,
alleging that Defendant had improperly withheld records by
failing to respond to Plaintiff's FOIA request. See
generally Compl. On November 30, 2017, Defendant
produced 29 pages of responsive records to Plaintiff. Joint
Status Report, ECF No. 12, at 1. While the FBI released some
pages in full, it withheld information found on other pages
pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 5, 6, and 7(C). Id.;
Hardy Decl. ¶ 16.
Defendant's production, both parties moved for summary
judgment. Defendant argued that the FBI had conducted an
adequate search and that its withholdings were proper.
See generally Def.'s Mot. at 1. In support of
its motion, Defendant submitted a declaration from David M.
Hardy, the Section Chief of the FBI's Record/Information
Dissemination Section. Hardy Decl. ¶ 1. Hardy described
the FBI's searches for responsive records, id.
¶¶ 17-21, and the FBI's justifications for its
withholdings, id. ¶¶ 22-48.
challenged the adequacy of the agency's search and
several of Defendant's withholdings. See
Pl.'s Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. & Mem. in Opp'n to
Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 16 [hereinafter Pl.'s Mot.], at
5-14. Specifically, Plaintiff argued that the FBI improperly
asserted Exemptions 6 and 7(C) to withhold FBI employees'
names and contact information in two pages of released
emails. See Id. at 7-12 (citing Def.'s Mot.,
Hardy Decl., Ex. H, ECF No. 14-2 [hereinafter Disclosures],
at FBI-7, FBI-12). Additionally, Plaintiff argued that the
FBI improperly asserted Exemption 5 to withhold talking
points contained within released emails. See Id. at
7, 12-14 (citing Disclosures at FBI-2-3, FBI-23-24).
Defendant subsequently conducted additional searches and
released 18 additional pages, prompting Plaintiff to drop its
challenge to the adequacy of the search. Joint Status Report,
ECF No. 21 [hereinafter JSR], at 1-2; Def.'s Reply in
Further Supp. of Def.'s Mot. & Opp'n to Pl.'s
Cross-Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 22 [hereinafter Def.'s
Reply], Third Decl. of David M. Hardy, ECF No. 22-2
[hereinafter Third Hardy Decl.], ¶¶ 2, 4-5.
Plaintiff also dropped one of its initial claims regarding a
withholding made under Exemptions 6 and 7(C), and it did not
challenge any of the FBI's new withholdings. Pl.'s
Reply in Supp. of Cross-Mot., ECF No. 24 [hereinafter
Pl.'s Reply], at 1-2.
remains of this dispute is quite limited. The parties'
cross-motions concern only redactions of two disclosed
records-one withholding under Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and one
under Exemption 5.
FOIA cases are properly resolved on motions for summary
judgment. Brayton v. Office of the U.S. Trade
Representative, 641 F.3d 521, 527 (D.C. Cir. 2011).
Summary judgment must 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). A dispute is “genuine” only
if a reasonable fact-finder could find for the nonmoving
party, and a fact is ...