United States District Court, District of Columbia
H. RICHARD WINN, Plaintiff,
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.
D. BATES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
H. Richard Winn brought this action pursuant to the Freedom
of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552,
and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, against defendant
Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking documents responsive to
three FOIA requests he submitted to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI). The government has since released
responsive documents to Winn but has withheld some materials
as exempted from disclosure. Both parties filed cross-motions
for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the
DOJ's motion for summary judgment will be granted and
Winn's cross-motion for summary judgment will be denied.
a physician and neurosurgeon who served as the chairman of
the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of
Washington School of Medicine from 1983 until 2002. Decl. of
David M. Hardy (“Hardy Decl.”) [ECF No. 15-2]
¶ 5. In 1999, FBI officials began investigating claims
for medical services performed by the department's
faculty that were submitted to Medicare and Medicaid. Plea
Agreement at 4, United States v. H. Richard Winn,
No. 2:02-cr-00235-RSL-1 (W.D. Wash. July 16, 2002), ECF No.
3. Winn was charged with obstructing this investigation, and
he ultimately pled guilty to that charge in 2002.
Id. at 1, 16.
years later, on March 30, 2015, Winn submitted a FOIA request
to the FBI to obtain files to use in his memoirs.
See Ex. A to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.
(“2015 Request”) [ECF No. 15-3] at
Pl.'s P. & A. in Supp. of His Cross-Mot. for Summ. J.
& Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.
(“Pl.'s Mot. & Opp'n”) [ECF No. 16-1]
at 2. He asked for “[his] own FBI files” and
provided names under which the files might be found. 2015
Request at 2. He also included Form DOJ-361, which certified
his identity so that the agency could release his own records
to him. Id. at 4; see 28 C.F.R. § 16.3
(requiring requester seeking “records about
himself” to verify his identity). Three days later, the
FBI acknowledged receipt of the request and advised Winn that
it had initiated a search for responsive records. Def.'s
Stmt. of Undisputed Material Facts (“Def.'s
Stmt.”) [ECF No. 15] ¶ 2; Ex. B to Def.'s Mot.
for Summ. J. [ECF No. 15-3] at 6.
2015, the FBI informed Winn that it had “located
approximately 4000 pages of records potentially responsive to
the subject of [his] request, ” which it identified as
“Winn, Herbert Richard.” Ex. D to Def.'s Mot.
for Summ. J. [ECF No. 15-3] at 10. It reminded Winn that 4000
pages was only an estimate, and that “some information
may not be responsive to [his] subject” and “some
of the information may be withheld in full pursuant to FOIA /
Privacy Act exemption(s).” Id. In a separate
letter, the FBI also advised him that processing of his
request would be delayed because of the volume of the records
and because the FBI would need to consult with or collect
records from other FBI or agency offices. Ex. C to Def.'s
Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 15-3] at 8.
months passed without any further information from the FBI.
See Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Mot. &
Opp'n at 2. Winn then sent a second FOIA request to the
FBI on March 22, 2016, again stating that he was
“writing to obtain [his] own FBI files, ” and
attaching Form DOJ-361. Ex. F to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.
(“2016 Request”) [ECF No. 15-3] at 16-18. In this
request, he also explained that he was “seeking any and
all files related to the investigation of the University of
Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, WA . . . beginning
in 1990.” Id. at 16. Winn stated that he had
“made the same request” one year prior.
year passed, and on March 9, 2017, Winn submitted a third
FOIA request to the FBI. Ex. H to Def.'s Mot. for Summ.
J. (“2017 Request”) [ECF No. 15-3] at 23. He
again requested “[his] own FBI files, ” and
explained that he was “seeking any and all files
related to the investigation of the University of Washington
School of Medicine in Seattle, WA . . . beginning in
1990.” Id. at 24.
5, 2017, Winn filed the instant lawsuit seeking the release
of all records responsive to his three FOIA requests. Compl.
[ECF No. 1] at 6. Two months later, the Record / Information
Dissemination Section (“RIDS”) of the FBI
conducted a search for responsive records using the names
Winn had provided and located one investigative file. Hardy
Decl. ¶ 25. This file pertained to the relevant
investigation into Winn, but also included information
pertaining to other suspects in the investigation.
Id. ¶¶ 25 & n.5. The FBI only
processed records in the file that related to its
investigation of Winn. Id. ¶ 25 n.5. In total,
the FBI determined that 915 of the originally estimated 4000
pages were responsive to Winn's requests. Id.
August 31, 2017, and December 29, 2017, the FBI released 619
pages of records in full or in part. Id.
¶¶ 4, 15-18. The FBI also withheld 296 pages in
full, citing statutory exemptions that permit FOIA materials
to be withheld because they were compiled for law enforcement
purposes, identify confidential sources, are grand jury
materials, or are personnel, medical, or other
personally-identifying materials. Id. ¶¶
4, 32, 34-61 (citing Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)
and 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(3), (6), (7)(C), (7)(D),
government then filed a motion for summary judgment asserting
that it had conducted an adequate search for responsive
records and had now produced all non-exempt, non-segregable
records responsive to Winn's requests. Mem. of Law in
Supp. of Def.'s Renewed Mot. for Summ. J.
(“Def.'s Mot.”) [ECF No. 15] at
Winn responded in opposition and filed a cross-motion for
summary judgment. In doing so, he conceded that the FBI's
search for the investigative file was adequate and that it
had properly invoked applicable FOIA exemptions to withhold
information. See Pl.'s Mot. & Opp'n at
1, 3 & n.1. However, he argued that he actually sought
all records within the investigative file, not just his
records, and that the FBI improperly narrowed the scope of
his requests by excluding the majority of the records within
the file. Id. at 3-6. He also contended that
although the FBI's search for the investigative file was
adequate, the FBI did not establish that it had conducted an
adequate search for responsive records within the
investigative file. Id. at 6 n.4. Finally, Winn
argued that that the government did not establish that it had
released all reasonably segregable non-exempt information.
Id. at 6-7. The parties' motions are now fully
briefed and ripe for consideration.
judgment is appropriate “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). The party seeking summary judgment bears
the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party may
successfully support its motion by identifying those portions
of the record, including affidavits or declarations, which it
believes can demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); see
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists,
the Court must “view the facts and draw reasonable
inferences ‘in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion.'” Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citation and alteration omitted). A
non-moving party, however, must establish more than the
“mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” in
support of its position. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). “Summary judgment
is warranted if the plaintiff has failed to ‘present
affirmative evidence . . . to defeat a properly supported
motion for summary judgment.'” Durant ...