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WOJTCZAK v. UNITED STATES DOJ
September 29, 1982
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODERICK
Plaintiff Richard Wojtczak brought this action pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, seeking to compel the disclosure of information withheld by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") in response to plaintiff's request for all FBI documents pertaining to him. Plaintiff has received all requested material with the exception of the nine pages at issue in this case. These documents contain results of laboratory tests which the FBI conducted at the request of local law enforcement authorities in connection with the plaintiff's trial on charges of rape. Plaintiff was subsequently convicted. The FBI refused to produce the results concerning the lab tests, contending that these materials were exempt from FOIA disclosure pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(D), (hereinafter "Exemption 7(D)"), which states that the government need not release law enforcement investigation records that contain the identity of a confidential source. Plaintiff contends that Exemption 7(D) applies only to investigatory records compiled for federal law enforcement, and does not apply to records pertaining to state law enforcement activity. For the reasons hereinafter set forth, the court has determined that the records in question are law enforcement records within the meaning of Exemption 7(D). However, the government stated, at oral argument held before this Court on July 20, 1982, that it had offered to provide plaintiff with copies of the lab reports that were redacted so as to shield the identity of any confidential source or sources. The Court will order that the government provide these redacted materials to the plaintiff.
In 1975, plaintiff was arrested for assault and rape in Montgomery, Bucks, and Philadelphia counties. He was convicted in Montgomery and Bucks counties during 1976. In 1977, he was convicted in Philadelphia county. During the course of police investigations connected with the case, a local law enforcement agency or agencies submitted certain evidence to the FBI for laboratory examination and analysis. The FBI customarily performs this service at the request of local law enforcement agencies so that local law enforcement agencies with limited financial resources may benefit from the FBI's state-of-the-art technology.
The FOIA provides, inter alia,
each agency, upon any request for records which (A) reasonably decribes such records and (B) is made in accordance with published rules stating the time, place, fees (if any), and procedures to be followed, shall make the records promptly available to any person.
(B) On complaint, the district court of the United States in the district in which the complainant resides, or has his principal place of business, or in which the agency records are situated, or in the District of Columbia, has jurisdiction to enjoin the agency from withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency records improperly withheld from the complainant. In such a case the court shall determine the matter de novo, and may examine the contents of such agency records in camera to determine whether such records or any part thereof shall be withheld under any of the exemptions set forth in subsection (b) of this section, and the burden is on the agency to sustain its action.
(b) This section does not apply to matters that are --
(7) investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such records would . . . (D) disclose the identity of a confidential source and, in the case of a record compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, confidential information furnished only by the confidential source, (E) disclose investigative techniques and procedures, or (F) endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel;
Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be provided to any person requesting such record after deletion of the portions which are exempt under this subsection.
5 U.S.C. §§ 552(a)(3); (a)(4)(B); (b)(7)(D)(E)(F).
In order to meet Exemption 7 of the FOIA (5 U.S.C. § (b)(7)), the requested material must be both (1) an investigatory record compiled by a law enforcement agency and (2) meet one of the other conditions specified in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(A) through (F). See Ferri v. Bell, 645 F.2d 1213, 1223 (3d Cir. 1981) ("Even assuming arguendo that the words 'investigatory records' were applied loosely to cover all the information sought . . . the government must still establish that disclosure would cause one of the six enumerated harms listed in section (b)(7)"). See also, Pratt v. Webster, 673 F.2d 408, 413 (D.C. Cir. 1982); Irons v. Bell, 596 F.2d 468 (1st Cir. 1979); Church of Scientology v. U.S. Department of Justice, 612 F.2d 417, 420-421 (9th Cir. 1979). Thus, to sustain its withholding of the documents in question, the FBI must show that ...
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