United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
N. MCFADDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Pichardo-Martinez sued under the Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, to
obtain records maintained by the United States Marshals
Service (the “Service”). The Service moved for
summary judgment, and the Court issued an order advising Mr.
Pichardo-Martinez to file an opposition or other response to
the motion. Mr. Pichardo-Martinez has since filed two
documents, but neither addresses the legal arguments set
forth in the Service's summary judgment motion. Even so,
the Court cannot grant summary judgment unless “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); see Alexander
v. FBI, 691 F.Supp.2d 182, 193 (D.D.C. 2010). Because
the Service has not met its burden, the Court will deny its
Motion for Summary Judgment without prejudice.
appears that Mr. Pichardo-Martinez had been designated to
facilities which housed federal prisoners under contract with
the Service: the Lake County Jail and the Community
Corrections Association in Youngstown, Ohio. See
Compl., ECF No. 1 at 2. Mr. Pichardo-Martinez drafted two
separate FOIA requests and mailed them to the Service's
Office of General Counsel, see id. at 3-4, the
office “responsible for processing all [FOIA] requests
made to any [Service] office, ” Kil Decl. ¶ 1, ECF
No. 12-1. Generally, Mr. Pichardo-Martinez sought his medical
records and copies of each facility's contract with the
Service. See Compl. Exs. A & C, ECF No. 1 at 6,
to Mr. Pichardo-Martinez, the Service received his letters on
September 13, 2018. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 4. The Service,
however, has no record of receiving the
requests.Kil Decl. ¶ 4. Even so, “[o]n or
around February 21, 2019, the [Service] decided to accept Mr.
Pichardo-Martinez's FOIA requests, . . . .which were
attached to [his] complaint.” Id. ¶ 6.
Service processed the requests attached to Mr.
Pichardo-Martinez's Complaint and “released all
responsive non-exempt records to Mr.
Pichardo-Martinez.” Id. ¶ 6. Of the 51
pages of responsive records located, the Service withheld
some information under FOIA Exemptions 7(C) and 7(E).
See Kil Decl. Ex. A, ECF No. 12-1 at 5-6.
can decide most FOIA cases on motions for summary judgment.
See Brayton v. Office of U.S. Trade Representative,
641 F.3d 521, 527 (D.C. Cir. 2011). The Court may grant
summary judgment if the pleadings, disclosure materials on
file, and affidavits “show[ ] that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);
see Judicial Watch v. Dep't of the Navy, 25
F.Supp.3d 131, 136 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). In a
FOIA case, the Court conducts a de novo review of
the record, and the federal agency bears the burden of
proving compliance with its obligations under the FOIA. 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B); see Military Audit Project v.
Casey, 656 F.2d 724, 738 (D.C. Cir. 1981).
Service has not carried its burden at this stage. An agency
must “demonstrate beyond material doubt that its search
was reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant
documents.” Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S.
Dep't of State, 641 F.3d 504, 514 (D.C. Cir. 2011)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). To meet its
burden, the agency may submit affidavits or declarations that
explain in reasonable detail the scope and method of the
agency's search. Perry v. Block, 684 F.2d 121,
126 (D.C. Cir. 1982). But the affidavit the Service submitted
does not explain the scope or method the agency's search.
all that is known of the Service's search for records
responsive to Mr. Pichardo-Martinez's FOIA requests is
that staff at its Eastern District of Pennsylvania Office
conducted it. See Kil Decl. Ex. A, ECF No. 12-1 at
5. At a minimum, the agency must “specify ‘what
records were searched, by whom, and through what process,
'” Rodriguez v. Dep't of Defense, 236
F.Supp.3d 26, 38 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting Steinberg v.
Dep't of Justice, 23 F.3d 548, 552 (D.C. Cir.
1994)). The Service failed to do so.
the Service has not justified its withholding information
under FOIA Exemption 7. That section protects from disclosure
“records or information compiled for law enforcement
purposes, ” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7), but only if
disclosure of such records would cause an enumerated harm.
See FBI v. Abramson, 456 U.S. 615, 622 (1982).
“To show that . . . documents were compiled for law
enforcement purposes, the [agency] need only establish a
rational nexus between the investigation and one of the
agency's law enforcement duties and a connection between
an individual or incident and a possible security risk or
violation of federal law.” Blackwell v. FBI,
646 F.3d 37, 40 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted).
Service's supporting declaration fails to meet this
threshold requirement. Further, the declaration does not
demonstrate that disclosure of the withheld information
“could reasonably be expected to constitute an
unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, ” 5 U.S.C.
§ 552 (b)(7)(C). Nor does it established that disclosure
“would disclose techniques and procedures for law
enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose
guidelines for law enforcement investigations ...