United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. FRIEDRICH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
David Williams, proceeding pro se, challenges the
response of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys
(EOUSA) to his request for records under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA). Williams moved for summary judgment,
arguing that EOUSA “never” responded to his
request or justified any withholdings. See Pl.'s
Mot. for Summ. J. ¶ 4, Dkt. 9; see also Id.
¶¶ 5-7. EOUSA has since processed Williams's
FOIA request, released records, and moved for summary
judgment. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Dkt. 18;
see also Pl.'s Opp'n at 1, Dkt. 21. Williams
opposed the motion, see Pl.'s Opp'n, and
EOUSA failed to file a reply. Williams then filed a Motion
for Order to Show Cause, arguing that it was
“unclear” whether EOUSA filed a reply and that,
if it did not file a reply, it should be ordered to show
cause why Williams should not be granted relief, Pl.'s
Mot. for Order to Show Cause at 1, Dkt. 22; see also
Id. at 2. For the reasons that follow, the Court will
deny Williams's initial motion as moot, grant in part and
deny in part without prejudice EOUSA's motion, and deny
Williams's show cause motion.
23, 2007, a grand jury in the Middle District of Florida
indicted Williams and his mother for mail fraud and other
crimes. United States v. Williams, No. 06-cr-0075,
2007 WL 2021963, at *1 & n.1 (M.D. Fla. July 11, 2007).
In a FOIA request dated March 10, 2016, Williams sought the
following five categories of records related to his criminal
case: (1) all “Brady material”; (2) all
“Jencks [Act] material”; (3) all
“Giglio material”; (4) “[a]ny
and all other reports, files, and documents that are
permitted to be released by law”; and (5) “Grand
Jury minutes (transcript(s)).” Decl. of Tricia Francis
Attach. A at 1, Dkt. 18-1 (italics added). On May 16, 2016,
EOUSA forwarded Williams's request to its FOIA contact in
the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle
District of Florida. Id. ¶ 7. Two days later,
on May 18, EOUSA sent a letter to Williams acknowledging the
request. Id. Attach. B. It completed processing the
request in December of 2017, see Id. ¶¶
13, 15, but because of “an administrative oversight,
” it did not mail the prepared release packet to
Williams until September of 2018, id. ¶ 15.
filed this lawsuit on January 4, 2018, Pl.'s Compl., Dkt.
1, and moved for summary judgment on July 3, Pl.'s Mot.
for Summ. J. EOUSA then mailed the release packet to Williams
in September and informed him that 528 pages were released in
full, 30 pages were released in part, and 249 pages were
withheld in full. Francis Decl. Attach. C. at 1. It also
explained that several of the requested documents were sealed
or related to grand jury proceedings, and it cited FOIA
exemptions 3, 5, 6, 7(C) and 7(D),  codified in 5 U.S.C. §
552(b), as the bases for the remaining withholdings.
Id. Attach. C at 1-2. In November, EOUSA moved for
summary judgment. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates that
“[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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). At this stage, all facts and
inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
requester, and the agency bears the burden of showing that it
complied with FOIA. Chambers v. U.S. Dep't of
Interior, 568 F.3d 998, 1003 (D.C. Cir. 2009).
prevail under Rule 56, a federal agency “must prove
that each document that falls within the class requested
either has been produced, is unidentifiable, or is wholly
exempt from [FOIA's] inspection requirements.”
Perry v. Block, 684 F.2d 121, 126 (D.C. Cir. 1982)
(per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). The agency
“must show beyond material doubt . . . that it has
conducted a search reasonably calculated to uncover all
relevant documents, ” Weisberg v. DOJ, 705
F.2d 1344, 1351 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (internal quotation marks
omitted), and must also explain why any of the nine
enumerated exemptions listed in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)
applies to withheld information, Judicial Watch v.
FDA, 449 F.3d 141, 147 (D.C. Cir. 2006); see also
DOJ v. Julian, 486 U.S. 1, 8 (1988) (“A federal
agency must disclose agency records unless they may be
withheld pursuant to one of the nine enumerated exemptions
listed in § 552(b).”).
peculiarities inherent in FOIA litigation, with the
responding agencies often in sole possession of requested
records and with information searches conducted only by
agency personnel, have led federal courts to rely on
government affidavits to determine whether the statutory
obligations of the FOIA have been met.” Perry,
684 F.2d at 126. Thus, “[i]n FOIA cases, summary
judgment may be granted on the basis of agency affidavits if
they contain reasonable specificity of detail rather than
merely conclusory statements, and if they are not called into
question by contradictory evidence in the record or by
evidence of agency bad faith.” Judicial Watch v.
U.S. Secret Serv., 726 F.3d 208, 215 (D.C. Cir. 2013)
(alteration adopted and internal quotation marks omitted).
“Agency affidavits 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. v. SEC, 926 F.2d
1197, 1200 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks
threshold matter, the Court denies as moot Williams's
initial motion for summary judgment. EOUSA had not responded
to Williams's FOIA request when he filed the motion, and
the motion took issue with the agency's failure to
disclose any documents at all, see Pl.'s Mot.
for Summ. J. at 3. Those arguments no longer apply now that
EOUSA has responded to his request.
Court divides its analysis of EOUSA's motion in three
parts. First, it considers Williams's argument that,
although EOUSA released an exhibit list, it withheld the
trial exhibits themselves without providing an adequate
justification. Pl.'s Opp'n at 1. Second, it considers
Williams's argument that EOUSA failed to release
Brady, Giglio, and Jencks Act material and
failed to justify its withholding of that material.
Id. at 1-2. Finally, the Court considers each of
EOUSA's asserted bases for withholding materials
responsive to Williams's request.
The Trial Exhibits
faults EOUSA for withholding without explanation the trial
exhibits described in the exhibit list he received. Pl.'s
Opp'n at 1, 3-5. Although the FOIA contact confirmed that
“233 pages of trial exhibits” were retrieved
following the “original search of Williams'
criminal case file, ” Hoobler Decl. ⁋ 9, EOUSA
neither accounted for those exhibits in its opening brief nor
addressed Williams's argument in a reply
brief Because the Court lacks sufficient
information to determine whether the undisclosed exhibits
constitute a withholding, much less an improper withholding,
it denies EOUSA's motion without prejudice as to those
documents. EOUSA must supplement the record and, if
warranted, release any additional responsive documents.
urges the Court to “order that the [e]xhibits be
released, ” Pl.'s Opp'n at 5, but a FOIA
requester is not entitled to agency documents simply because
the agency failed to satisfy its burden to obtain summary
judgment. Instead, it is appropriate to require the agency to
provide the necessary information to permit the Court to
determine whether FOIA requires the release of the documents.
See DeBrew v. Atwood, 792 F.3d 118, 122 (D.C. Cir.
2015) (“On remand, the district court may order the BOP
to submit a reasonably detailed affidavit upon which the
reasonableness of its search can be judged.”
(alteration adopted and internal quotation request to the
FOIA contact for that Office. Francis Decl. ¶ 7. Another
representative of the Office then conducted a search of the
Office's case management and tracking database and
located Williams's criminal case file. Decl. of Megan D.
Hoobler ¶¶ 5, 9, Dkt. 18-2. The documents in that
file were considered responsive to Williams's request.
marks omitted)); Morley v. CIA, 508 F.3d 1108, 1122
(D.C. Cir. 2007) (“On remand, the CIA must expand its
description of the search it conducted.”); Oglesby
v. U.S. Dep't of Army, 920 F.2d 57, 68 (D.C. Cir.
The Brady, Giglio, and Jencks ...