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Sandoval v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 24, 2019

MARCELO SANDOVAL, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON JUDGE

         Plaintiff Marcelo Sandoval, proceeding pro se, brought this action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) and the Privacy Act against defendants United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (“EOUSA”), the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of Illinois (“USAO CDIL”), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), seeking both the production of documents and the correction of inaccurate records. Compl. [Dkt. # 1] ¶¶ 4-9.

         On June 22, 2017, defendants filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment. Defs.' First Mot. to Dismiss & for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 17] (“Defs.' First Mot.”); Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 17-2] (“Defs.' First Mem.”). They argued that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, Defs.' First Mem. at 3-4; the FBI and EOUSA conducted adequate searches, id. at 4-6; the FBI properly withheld some information pursuant to FOIA exemptions, id. at 6-13; and plaintiff failed to state a Privacy Act claim. Id. at 14. In plaintiff's opposition, filed on October 20, 2017, he challenged adequacy of defendants' searches and the use of certain FOIA Exemptions. See Pl.'s Opp. to Defs.' First Mem. [Dkt. # 20] (“Pl.'s First Opp.”).

         On November 2, 2017, the Court dismissed plaintiff's Privacy Act claims against all defendants and granted defendant FBI's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's FOIA claims. Sandoval v. DOJ, 296 F.Supp.3d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2017). But the Court denied the motions filed by defendants DOJ, EOUSA, and the USAO on the basis that their declarations were deficient. Id. at 11-18. The matter was remanded to these agencies to provide a more detailed justification for the adequacy of their searches for responsive documents, and to release any reasonably segregable non-exempt material to plaintiff consistent with FOIA. Id. at 16-17.

         On April 3, 2018 defendants DOJ, EOUSA, and USAO CDIL filed a second motion for summary judgment. See Defs.' Second Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 29] (“Defs.' Second Mot.”). Because defendants have now provided sufficiently detailed explanations, the Court concludes that the searches were adequate, and it will grant defendants' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The factual and procedural background of this case are laid out in detail in the Court's Memorandum Opinion granting in part and denying in part defendants' first motion for summary judgment, so the Court will address the facts only briefly here. See Sandoval v. DOJ, 296 F.Supp.3d at 6-9.

         On August 31, 2015, plaintiff sent a Freedom of Information/Privacy Act (“FOIPA”) request to EOUSA asking for access to “any and all records . . . that relate[] to and/or make[] reference to Sandoval, ” “in and around 1997-2015, ” including “[i]naccurate records, depict[ing] Sandoval as a ‘Mexican Mafia Member' and other false records such as Sandoval working with the government.” Decl. of David Luczynski [Dkt. # 29-2] (“Luczynski Decl.”) ¶ 4, Ex. A.

         Plaintiff submitted another FOIPA request to USAO CDIL dated September 11, 2015. Luczynski Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. B. He sought records from “case: #99-40019-(Central District of Illinois)” between 1997 and 2015, “[s]howing that Sandoval is a member of the Mexican Mafia & that Sandoval was working for the FBI/DEA. And of [d]ocuments refuting supra.” Id. USAO CDIL advised plaintiff to direct all future correspondence to EOUSA since that organization within the Department of Justice handles all FOIA requests involving U.S. Attorneys' Offices, and it sent a letter to EOUSA on September 23, 2015, enclosing a copy of plaintiff's FOIPA request for processing. Decl. of Julie Leeper [Dkt. # 17-6] (“Leeper Decl.”) ¶ 3. EOUSA informed plaintiff on October 9, 2015, that it had received the request he sent to the office that prosecuted him, and EOUSA assigned it FOIA No. 2015-04040. Luczynski Decl. ¶ 7, Ex. D; Suppl. Decl. of Julie Leeper [Dkt. # 29-3] (“Suppl. Leeper Decl.”) at 1.

         On October 20, 2015, plaintiff sent a third request to EOUSA, seeking the following:

I request specific documents proving my actual innocence of the kidnapping described in USA v. Sandoval, #99-cr-40019-JBM (C.D. Ill./Rock Island) & inaccurate records dep[icting] Sandoval as a member of the Mexican Mafia & government informant, which are both untrue, [and] also concerning government witnesses against Sandoval convicted of violence & committing perjury at Sandoval's jury trial.

         Luczynski Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. C. This request was also limited to the 1997 through 2015 time frame. See id. USAO CDIL received this request from EOUSA sometime in November 2015, and it deemed the request, which retained the same FOIA No. 2015-04040, to supersede plaintiff's first two requests. Suppl. Leeper Decl. at 1.

         Between October 8, 2015 and June 13, 2016, USAO CDIL performed a physical and electronic search for documents. Suppl. Leeper Decl. at 1. On approximately June 13, 2016, it informed EOUSA that it was unable to locate any responsive documents. Leeper Decl. ¶¶ 4, 13.

         On September 16, 2016, EOUSA responded to request No. 2015-04040, informing plaintiff that his request had been processed and no responsive records had been found. Luczynski Decl. ¶ 10, Ex. G. On October 3, 2016, plaintiff appealed EOUSA's determination, id. ΒΆ 11, Ex. H, and on December 15, 2016, the Office ...


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