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Jenkins v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 17, 2019

VAN JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff brought this action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, in an effort to obtain information allegedly maintained by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan (“USAO/MIE”). The Court granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and to Dismiss on July 12, 2017, and plaintiff appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit remanded this matter for further proceedings on the adequacy of defendant's search for records responsive to plaintiff's FOIA request. See Order, Jenkins v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 17-5184 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 14, 2018). As the D.C. Circuit suggested, this Court “order[ed defendant] to submit a reasonably detailed affidavit upon which the reasonableness of its search can be judged.” Id.

         Having reviewed defendant's declaration, plaintiff's response, and the parties' respective exhibits, the Court concludes that defendant conducted an adequate search for records responsive to plaintiff's FOIA request.

         I. Plaintiff's FOIA Request

         Plaintiff sent a letter dated May 3, 2016, to Nancy Aishie A. Abraham, an Assistant United States Attorney (“AUSA”) in the USAO/MIE's in Flint, Michigan office, the caption of which reads:

IDENTIFICATION OF REQUESTER: IN ACCORDANCE WITH 28 CFR Sec. 16.41(d) INFORMATION IN RE: DISCLOSURE OF ALL CRIMINAL BONDS, BONDING, JUDGMENT NUMBERS, OR OTHERWISE AS REQUESTED, No. 08-1329-FH WASHTENAW COUNTY 22ND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN & No. 13-708614

Compl., Ex. A-1 at 1 (emphasis in original). Plaintiff sought “full disclosure and release of all records . . . [c]ontained in the files of [EOUSA] . . . under [his] name and/or identifier to [his] name.” Id., Ex. A-1 at 1 (emphasis removed). He listed several categories of information of interest to him, such as “Criminal Bonding information” and “Judgment Numbers information[.]” Id., Ex. A-1 at 1. The letter found its way to the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (“EOUSA”), a component of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”). See id., Ex. A-1 at 3.

         EOUSA assigned the matter a tracking number, FOIA-2016-02583. Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. and to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”). Decl. of David Luczynski (“Luczynski Decl.”) ¶ 5. Because plaintiff had not “provide[d] a notarized example of his signature or a certification of identity, ” Luczynski Decl. ¶ 5, EOUSA asked that he return a Certification of Identity form and “clarify whether [he] was seeking or all records or records related to bonds only, ” id. Plaintiff returned the form, see Compl., Ex. B-2 at 5, accompanied by a letter with the caption:

RE: REQUEST NO. FOIA-2016-02583; VAN JENKINS (SELF)/BONDS & RECORDS; GOVERNMENT CERTIFIED RECORDS PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. 1733(a) FOR CASE(S): 82-13708614-01-FH & 08-1329-FH; AMENDED REQUEST OF FOIA TO THE 5/3/16 REQUEST.

Id., Ex. B-2 at 1 (emphasis in original).

         EOUSA assigned the matter a new tracking number, FOIA-2016-3203, and deemed the request deficient. Luczynski Decl. ¶ 7. Applicable regulations require that a requester identify the specific United States Attorney's Office where he believed responsive records may be located, and plaintiff had not done so. Id. Plaintiff was informed that he could correct the deficiency and file a new FOIA request. Id.

         Plaintiff pursued administrative appeals of EOUSA's initial determinations on FOIA-2016-2583 and FOIA-2016-3203 to DOJ's Office of Information Policy (“OIO”). See Resp. Pleading to Def.'s Supporting Decl. on the Adequacy of Pl.'s FOIA Request Search for Records (“Pl.'s Resp.”), Ex. B at 20-21. OIP notified plaintiff by letter dated September 1, 2016, that, “[a]s a result of discussions between EOUSA personnel and [OIP], EOUSA . . . agreed to conduct a search for responsive records in [USAO/MIE].” Id., Ex. B at 26. And as defendant represented to the D.C. Circuit, “it [ran] a search for documents responsive to [plaintiff's] FOIA request[.]” Order, Jenkins v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 17-5184 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 14, 2018).

         II. USAO/MIE's Search ...


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