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.

American Center for Law and Justice v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 19, 2018

AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMIT P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

          I. INTRODUCTION

         Four 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 email practices.

         This 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.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On July 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.

         On 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.

         B. Procedural Background

         Following 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.

         Plaintiff 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.

         What 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.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Most 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 ...


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.