United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. MCFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
Melvin Anderson, a federal prisoner appearing pro
se, brought this action to compel the Federal Bureau of
Prisons (“BOP” or “the Bureau”) to
produce various documents under the Freedom of Information
Act (“FOIA”). The Bureau has since released
responsive records and moved for summary judgment under Rule
56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Mot. for Summ.
J., ECF No. 15. Anderson has not opposed the motion. For the
reasons explained below, the Court finds that the Bureau has
shown its compliance with the FOIA and is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
response to the complaint filed on March 3, 2018, BOP
“concedes” that Plaintiff's FOIA request
“was received by BOP's Central Office” but
“was not entered into BOP's FOIAXpress”
tracking system. Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts (“Facts”) ¶ 8, ECF No.
15-2. So on June 19, 2018, BOP began processing
Anderson's request, id. ¶ 6, which sought
several categories of records: a) Records concerning Incident
Report Number 2824067; b) Records concerning his custody
classification to include records concerning his increase in
custody classification and rationale for his 409 transfer; c)
a certificate of completion of a photography class/training
course; and d) records concerning a Request for
Administrative Remedy that Plaintiff identified as Remedy
Appeal No. 877399-A1.
Id. ¶ 9; see Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No.
1. The Bureau searched files maintained by (1) its
Designation and Sentence Computation Center, (2) the National
Inmate Appeals Administrator, (3) Hazelton United States
Penitentiary in West Virginia (Plaintiff's current
location), and (4) the United States Penitentiary in Coleman,
Florida (Plaintiff's prior location). See Facts
¶¶ 11-18. The Bureau also requested staff at USP
Coleman “to search its records and some individual
staff members to search their records, either electronic or
hard copy[.]” Id. ¶ 12. BOP located 57
responsive pages. Id. ¶ 19.
Bureau released nine unredacted pages and 30 redacted pages
to Anderson; it withheld 18 pages. Information was withheld
under FOIA exemptions 6, 7(C), 7(E) and 7(F), codified in 5
U.S.C. § 552(b). Def.'s Ex. 3, ECF No. 15-3
August 23, 2018, the Bureau filed the pending motion for
summary judgment, supported by the Stroble Declaration and a
Vaughn Index, ECF No. 15-5. On August 30, 2018, the
Court advised Anderson of his obligation to respond to the
Bureau's motion and warned of the consequences if he
failed to respond by October 4, 2018. See Order, ECF
No. 16. Anderson has neither responded or requested
additional time to do so, thereby leaving the Bureau's
requires federal agencies to “disclose information to
the public upon reasonable request unless the records at
issue fall within specifically delineated exemptions.”
Judicial Watch, Inc. v. FBI, 522 F.3d 364, 365-66
(D.C. Cir. 2008); see also 5 U.S.C. §
552(a)(3)(A) (records sought must be “reasonably
describe[d]”). In FOIA cases, the district court
reviews the record de novo, 5 U.S.C. §
552(a)(4)(B), and views the facts and draws all inferences
“in the light most favorable to the requester.”
Weisberg v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 745 F.2d
1476, 1485 (D.C. Cir. 1984).
“vast majority” of FOIA cases can be decided on
motions for summary judgment. See Brayton v. Office of
U.S. Trade Representative, 641 F.3d 521, 527 (D.C. Cir.
2011). When, as here, a motion is uncontested, the Court
still must “state on the record the reasons for
granting or denying” it. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see
Winston & Strawn, LLP v. McLean, 843 F.3d 503, 505
(D.C. Cir. 2016) (finding the burden rests with the movant to
show why summary judgment is warranted; consequently, the
district court “must always determine for itself
whether the record and any undisputed material facts justify
granting summary judgment”) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted)). To prevail on summary judgment,
the movant must show an absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986).
FOIA context, an agency must prove that no material facts are
in dispute, that it has conducted an adequate search for
responsive records, and that each responsive record has
either been produced to the requestor or is exempt from
disclosure. See Weisberg v. U.S. Dep't of
Justice, 627 F.2d 365, 368 (D.C. Cir. 1980). To
establish an adequate search, an agency can submit a
“reasonably detailed affidavit, setting forth the
search terms and the type of search performed, and averring
that all files likely to contain responsive materials (if
such records exist) were searched.” Oglesby v. U.S.
Dep't of the Army, 920 F.2d 57, 68 (D.C. Cir. 1990).
Although agency declarations are given “a presumption
of good faith, ” SafeCard Servs. Inc. v.
S.E.C., 926 F.2d 1197, 1200 (D.C. Cir. 1991), they must
also describe the agency's search with
“specificity.” Reporters Comm. for Freedom of
the Press & Assoc. Press v. FBI, 877 F.3d 399, 403
(D.C. Cir. 2017).
also have the burden of demonstrating that the withheld
document falls into one of the enumerated exemptions. 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B); see also Natural Res. Defense
Council, Inc. v. Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n, 216 F.3d
1180, 1190 (D.C. Cir. 2000). This includes providing a
sufficiently detailed description of the exemption, the
portion(s) of documents to which it applies, and
justification as to why the exemption is relevant, so that
the district court can conduct a de novo review of
the agency's determination. See Church of Scientology