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Blixseth v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 14, 2020

TIMOTHY BLIXSETH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES IMMIGRATIONS AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Timothy Blixseth's quest for information relating to suspected government corruption has led him to file five Freedom of Information Act suits in this Court against various agencies he claims were complicit. This time around, he alleges that Defendant United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement conducted an inadequate search in response to both of his FOIA requests and wrongfully withheld certain documents as to one of them. Having produced hundreds of pages, the Government now moves for summary judgment, and Plaintiff simultaneously asks for discovery. After reviewing the contested documents in camera, the Court finds the remainder of this case as quixotic as the others and will grant the Government's Motion and deny Blixseth's.

         I. Background

         Blixseth here alleges that the records he seeks contain information suggesting that federal-government actors, at the direction of private individuals whom he was suing, conducted searches of his property aimed to intimidate him into dropping that case. See ECF No. 1 (Complaint), ¶ 2; see also, e.g., Blixseth v. U.S. Coast Guard, No. 19-2297, 2019 WL 6841722, at *1 (D.D.C. Dec. 16, 2019). Specifically, Plaintiff believes that ICE thrice searched his private airplane to cow him into submission. He thus seeks:

1. All documents that refer or relate to Blixseth, Aircraft Tail Number N650GC, or Yellowstone Aviation & Marine.
2. All emails from any and all of former U.S. ICE Director John Morton's email accounts from the period of January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, referencing:
a. N650GC
b. Yellowstone
c. Yellowstone Aviation & Marine
d. Blixseth

ECF No. 15-2 (Declaration of Toni Fuentes), Exh. 2 (Request Letter) at 2 (footnote omitted). Blixseth submitted these requests in April 2018, and ICE's FOIA office responded in August with 357 pages of unredacted records, all responsive to only the second request. Id., Exh. 4 (Response Letter) at 1; id., Exh. 5 (Appeal Letter) at 1. After an administrative appeal, ICE subsequently identified 48 pages of records responsive to the first request, releasing portions of 42 pages and withholding six others in their entirety under FOIA Exemptions 6 (information that invades another individual's personal privacy), 7(C) (information that was compiled for law-enforcement purposes and threatens to disclose personal information or the identity of a confidential source), and 7(E) (information compiled for law-enforcement purposes whose publication would disclose techniques and procedures for investigations or prosecutions). See id., Exh. 8 (Appeal Response Letter) at 1-2.

         After Blixseth filed the present suit in May 2019 claiming both an inadequate search and wrongful withholding, see Complaint, ¶¶ 38, 44, ICE made a supplemental release of some previously withheld information on the first of those 48 pages. See Fuentes Decl., Exh. 9 (Supplemental Release Letter) at 1. The Government now moves for summary judgment, and Plaintiff moves for discovery. In the alternative, he requests in camera review of the 48 withheld pages. The Court accepted this last invitation and ordered Defendant to provide it with unredacted copies of the disputed pages, see Minute Order of Dec. 17, 2019, which it has now reviewed.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment may be granted 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). A genuine issue of material fact is one that would change the outcome of the litigation. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (“Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”). In the event of conflicting evidence on a material issue, the Court is to construe the conflicting evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Sample v. Bureau of Prisons, 466 F.3d 1086, 1087 (D.C. Cir. 2006). “Factual assertions in the moving party's affidavits or declarations may be accepted as true unless the opposing party submits ...


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