Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Charnock v. Barr

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 18, 2019

DOUGLAS C. CHARNOCK, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM BARR, Attorney General of the United States, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Tanya S. Chutkan, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Douglas Charnock, Jr. brings this action against the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), through Attorney General William Barr, [1] under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq., and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., to compel the DOJ to process and release records in response to his FOIA request. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the DOJ's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment will be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Charnock filed a complaint with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division in January 2017, alleging that the Supreme Court of Virginia violated his rights by denying him federal assistance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).[2]

         The DOJ decided not to act on Charnock's complaint in May 2017, explaining that the DOJ “receives thousands of ADA complaints each year, ” and “do[es] not have the resources to resolve all of them.” Def.'s Mot. For Summ. J., Decl. of Nelson D. Hermilla, Ex. D at 19-21, [3]ECF No. 7-1 (“DOJ's First Denial Letter”). The next month, the DOJ sent a follow-up letter to Charnock and stated that the DOJ “represents the interests of the United States, rather than individual complainants” in ADA enforcement claims, and because of the large number of complaints it receives compared to its limited resources, the DOJ is “unable to open an investigation of every complaint” it receives. Id. at 22 (“DOJ's Second Denial Letter”).

         Charnock then submitted a FOIA request to the DOJ for “documents, communications, notes, etc. that the Agency has used in its determination not to assist Mr. Charnock.” Complaint, ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶ 6. The DOJ searched for responsive documents and found one responsive document, DOJ's Second Denial Letter, which it forwarded to Charnock's counsel in its final FOIA response. Id. at ¶ 7.

         Charnock then filed this suit alleging that: (1) the DOJ unlawfully withheld agency records under FOIA and (2) the DOJ's decision to not investigate his complaint against the Supreme Court of Virginia violated the APA. See id. at ¶¶ 9-15, 17-18.

         After receiving the complaint, the DOJ conducted another search for responsive documents, using Charnock's name as the search term in two databases, the correspondence tracking system (“CTS”) and the case management system (“ICM”)-“the only locations within the agency where it is reasonably likely to find records responsive to the FOIA request.” Decl. of Nelson D. Hermilla, ECF No. 7-1 at 2, ¶ 5 (“Hermilla Decl.”). The DOJ's second search found three responsive documents, which it produced to Charnock's counsel: (1) The DOJ's First Denial Letter, (2) the DOJ's Second Denial Letter (which had been produced after the first search), and (3) a summary of Charnock's complaint to the DOJ. Id.

         The DOJ has moved for summary judgment, arguing that it conducted a reasonable and adequate search under FOIA, and that its decision not to investigate Charnock's complaint is an unreviewable exercise of the agency's prosecutorial discretion under the APA. Charnock cross-moved for summary judgment, arguing that the DOJ's search was inadequate and that its prosecutorial discretion under the APA is rebuttable and reviewable by the court.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Waterhouse v. Dist. of Columbia, 298 F.3d 989, 991 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A fact is material if “a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under governing law; factual disputes that are ‘irrelevant or unnecessary' do not affect the summary judgment determination.” Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). An issue is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

         “FOIA cases typically and appropriately are decided on motions for summary judgment.” ViroPharma Inc. v. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 839 F.Supp.2d 184, 189 (D.D.C. 2012) (citations omitted). When an agency moves for summary judgment on the grounds that it has discharged its FOIA obligations, all underlying facts and inferences are analyzed in the light most favorable to the FOIA requester, and only after the agency proves that it has fully discharged its FOIA obligations is summary judgment appropriate. Moore v. Aspin, 916 F.Supp. 32, 35 (D.D.C. 1996); see also Weisberg v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 705 F.2d 1344, 1350 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (“[T]he agency bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, even when the underlying facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the requester.”).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.