United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Goralski Lamb, proceeding pro se, brings this action
under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5
U.S.C. § 552, and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a,
seeking records relating to his background investigation and
suitability determination to work as a contractor for the
Millennium Challenge Corporation ("MCC"), a foreign
assistance corporation established in the executive branch of
the federal government. In a prior opinion, the Court
dismissed a number of Lamb's claims and granted summary
judgment, in part, in favor of the MCC. See Lamb v.
Millennium Challenge Corp., 228 F.Supp.3d 28, 36-38
(D.D.C. 2017) ("Lamb I"). In one respect,
however, the Court concluded that the MCC had failed to carry
its burden; although the MCC indicated that its search
located five responsive records, including "the Report
of Investigation," when it responded to Lamb's
FOIA/Privacy Act request, the agency failed to make any
mention of the Report of Investigation. Id. at 36.
The Court also addressed Lamb's motion for leave to file
a second amended complaint and granted that motion in part
and denied it in part. Id. at 39-47. As to several
proposed claims, the Court held that the amendment would be
futile, but-among other claims-the Court permitted Lamb to
add FOIA and Privacy Act claims against the Department of
State, which assisted the MCC in conducting Lamb's
background investigation. Id. at 42.
and the State Department released additional records to Lamb,
and both agencies now move for summary judgment. Dkt. 63.
Lamb opposes that motion and cross-moves for summary judgment
in his favor. Dkt. 65. For the reasons explained below, the
Court will GRANT in part and
DENY in part Defendants' motion for
summary judgment and will DENY Lamb's
the relevant facts are set forth in detail in the Court's
prior opinion, Lamb I, 228 F.Supp.3d at 33-35, the
Court will only briefly summarize them here. On February 22,
2016, Lamb began work as a contractor for the MCC in a
position that required a "favorable background
check." Id. at 34. Although Lamb believed that
he had been cleared for the job, about two weeks after
starting work he was contacted by MCC "security"
and was told that a State Department contractor needed to
interview him as part of his background investigation.
Id. Lamb's background investigation was then
conducted in part by the MCC and in part by the State
Department, which, at times, assists the MCC in completing
background investigations. Id. On April 18, 2016,
MCC officials confiscated Lamb's government
identification, removed him from the premises, and terminated
his employment. Id. Later, Lamb learned from his
employer, which held the contract with the MCC, that he was
terminated because his "security check came back
unfavorable." Id. (citation omitted).
to get to the bottom of the matter, Lamb submitted a
FOIA/Privacy Act request for "copies of all information
maintained about himself to the MCC, and, when it failed
timely to respond, he brought this suit. Id. Lamb
amended his complaint as of right a month later, adding
additional claims against the MCC as well as claims against
the State Department contract-employee who had handled his
background check. Id. The MCC subsequently released
a number of records in response to Lamb's request,
id. at 36, and moved for summary judgment,
id. at 33. Lamb, in turn, cross-moved for summary
judgment and moved for leave to file a second amended
complaint. Id. And, finally, the State Department
contract-employee moved to dismiss. Id.
considering the various motions, the Court issued an opinion
dismissing the State Department contract-employee; granting
the MCC's motion for summary judgment in part and denying
it in part; and granting Lamb's motion for leave to amend
in part and denying it in part. Id. at 47. As
relevant to the pending motions, the Court denied the
MCC's motion for summary judgment in part because the
declaration submitted in support of the motion referred to a
"Report of Investigation" ("ROI"), but
its letter accompanying the release of records to Lamb made
no mention of the ROI. Id. at 36-37. The Court also
declined to grant Lamb leave to add a number of claims to his
complaint on grounds of futility but did allow him to add a
FOIA and Privacy Act claim against the State Department and
to add a due process claim against the MCC. Id. at
promptly filed a second amended complaint, which, among other
things, added FOIA/Privacy Act claims against the State
Department and added three claims against James R. Blades, an
MCC official. Dkt. 50. But, a month later, Lamb voluntarily
dismissed his due process claims against Blades. Dkt. 53.
Moreover, although Lamb did not dismiss his Privacy Act claim
against Blades, the Court previously held that Blades is not
subject to suit under the Privacy Act. Lamb I, 228
F.Supp.3d at 40. Accordingly, the only claims that remain are
Lamb's FOIA and Privacy Act claims against the MCC and
the State Department challenging the adequacy of the searches
they conducted and their failure to release all responsive
and State Department, having released additional records, now
move for summary judgment, Dkt. 63, and Lamb cross-moves for
summary judgment, Dkt. 65.
many FOIA/Privacy Act cases, the scope of Lamb's request
is narrow-he seeks only the records "relied upon
in" his background investigation, Dkt. 63 at 5
(Def's SUMF ¶ 9)- and the agencies have withheld
very little. The MCC says that it has released in full all of
the records that it has located, and the State Department
released thirteen documents in full, released one with only
one redaction (a third party's social security number),
and referred one document to the Department of Defense. The
Department of Defense, in turn, released that document, which
is 121-pages long, with redactions (names, signatures, phone
numbers and personally identifiable information of third
parties and Department of Defense employees) on only two
pages. But, notwithstanding the minimal nature of the
withholdings, the Court concludes that it needs some
additional information before it can reach a final decision
in this case.
Adequacy of Searches
adequacy of an agency's search for records "is
analyzed under the same standard" for purposes of both
FOIA and the Privacy Act. Thompson v. U.S. Dep't of
Justice, 146 F.Supp.3d 72, 82 (D.D.C. 2015). To prevail
on summary judgment, the agency must submit declarations that
'"denote which files were searched,' [and] by
whom those files were searched, and [that] reflect a
'systematic approach to document location.'"
Liberation Newspaper v. U.S. Dep't of
State, 80 F.Supp.3d 137, 144 (D.D.C. 2015) (quoting
Weisberg v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 627 F.2d 365,
371 (D.C. Cir. 1980)); see also Baker & Hostetler LLP
v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, 473 F.3d 312, 318 (D.C.
Cir. 2006); Oglesby v. U.S. Dep't of the Army,
920 F.2d 57, 68 (D.C. Cir. 1990). Declarations "that
include search methods, locations of specific files searched,
descriptions of searches of all files likely to contain
responsive documents, and names of agency personnel
conducting the search are considered sufficient."
Ferranti v. Bur. of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms,
177 F.Supp.2d 41, 47 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing Weisberg,
705 F.2d at 1348). Those declarations, moreover, "are
accorded a presumption of good faith, which cannot be
rebutted by 'purely speculative claims about the
existence and discoverability of other documents.'"
SafeCard Servs., Inc. v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200
(D.C. Cir. 1991) (quoting Ground Saucer Watch, Inc. v.
CIA, 692 F.2d 770, 771 (D.C. Cir. 1981)). But where
"a review of the record raises substantial doubt,
particularly in view of 'well defined requests and
positive indications of overlooked materials,' summary
judgment is inappropriate." Valencia-Lucena v. U.S.
Coast Guard, 180 F.3d 321, 326 (D.C. Cir. 1999)
explained below, there is ample evidence that the State
Department and the MCC conducted adequate searches.