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MANCHESTER v. DEA

June 11, 1993

WILLIAM F. MANCHESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN., U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EDUARDO C. ROBRENO

 EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

 JUNE 11, 1993

 AND NOW, to wit, this 11th day of June, 1993, upon consideration of defendant Drug Enforcement Agency's ("DEA"'s) motion for summary judgment (Document No. 34) and plaintiff William F. Manchester's responses thereto, it is hereby ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED for all information claimed exempt under 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(5), (b)(7)(C), and (b)(7)(F). DEA's motion for summary judgment with respect to information claimed exempt under 5 U.S.C. §§ (b)(7)(A), (b)(7)(D), and (b)(7)(E) is DENIED without prejudice and leave is granted to DEA to file a supplemental motion for summary judgment with supporting affidavits and a memorandum within 30 days from the date of this Order. The plaintiff shall have 30 days within which to respond to any motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant.

 Further, upon consideration of plaintiff's motion for a continuance to conduct limited discovery to oppose defendant's motion for summary judgment (Document No. 36), plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment (Document No. 46), and defendant's responses thereto, it is hereby ORDERED that plaintiff's motions are DENIED. These rulings are based upon the following reasoning:

 I. BACKGROUND

 1. This case stems from Manchester's request for the production by the DEA and various other law enforcement agencies of voluminous documents pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). *fn1" Manchester is currently serving a life sentence in the Delaware Correctional Center for his conviction in Delaware state court of attempted first degree murder, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, and first degree conspiracy. *fn2" His FOIA requests seek all documents relating to the federal and state criminal investigations which culminated in his state conviction. Manchester claims that his conviction was based upon the fabricated testimony of his codefendant, the victim, and possibly other state witnesses. See Manchester v. F.B.I., No. 87-1264, slip op. at 3 (D.D.C. Oct. 19, 1987). Plaintiff's FOIA requests are, therefore, aimed at obtaining records which will support his claim of innocence. See Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of [First] Cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment at 11; Plaintiff's Motion for Re-Activation of Civil Action at 15-17, 19, 25; Plaintiff's Answering Brief to Defendant's [Renewed] Motion for Summary Judgment at 7-8;

 2. On November 24, 1987, Manchester filed the first of two FOIA requests with the Director's Office of the General Services Administration ("GSA") in Washington, D.C. GSA forwarded the request to DEA's Washington, D.C., central office, which assigned the request number 87-1928-F. Affidavit of William E. Bordley P 3, Ex. "1" (Document No. 34) ("Bordley I "). This request sought certain information pertaining to President Reagan's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force of the Mid-Atlantic Region ("OCDETF"), including but not limited to the criminal probe code-named "Arclight/Pariah." Id. PP 3-4; Plaintiff's Answering Brief to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment at 10;

 3. On November 30, 1987, Manchester filed a second FOIA request with DEA's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, field office, which assigned the request number 87-1951-F. Bordley I P 4. The second request sought numerous additional documents relating to the OCDETF, including records of code-names of each OCDETF investigation of the Pagans Motorcycle Club ("PMC"), identification of all participants in each investigation, all documentation prepared in anticipation and as a result of each investigation, all regulations providing for the investigations, all court materials generated as a result of the investigations, and all press releases. Plaintiff's Answering Brief to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment at 10-13;

 4. After acknowledging receipt of plaintiff's two FOIA requests and conducting the relevant searches, DEA informed plaintiff that, as to the first request, it had found no documents, Bordley I P 5, and, as to the second request, all documents retrieved were exempt from disclosure. Id. P 6. This response was subsequently amended to reflect that DEA had found no documents in response to the second request either. Id. P 11;

 5. Manchester appealed these rulings administratively to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, Office of Information and Privacy ("OIP"). *fn3" The appeals were denied. Id. P 14;

 6. On April 17, 1991, Manchester commenced an action in this Court pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B), seeking judicial review of these administrative decisions. On September 25, 1991, and October 10, 1991, respectively, DEA and Manchester filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The Honorable Jan E. DuBois denied without prejudice both motions for summary judgment and placed the case in the civil suspense file to permit DEA to search adequately for, and respond to, Manchester's FOIA requests in light of the information Manchester provided DEA through his submissions in opposition to DEA's motion for summary judgment and in support of his cross-motion. *fn4" Order of Nov. 22, 1991;

 7. On February 24, 1992, May 28, 1992, and August 12, 1992, DEA supplemented its responses to Manchester's FOIA requests, releasing at least 114 pages of documents. *fn5" On August 20, 1992, the case was transferred to my docket. Thereafter, I returned the case to the active list to allow for consideration of DEA's renewed motion for summary judgment and of Manchester's motions for partial summary judgment and for a continuance to allow limited discovery to oppose defendant's motion for summary judgment, and to compel answers to interrogatories. Order of Sept. 21, 1992;

 II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

 8. This Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter under 5 U.S.C. § 552 (a)(4)(B), which provides for review by the district court of an administrative decision denying requests for production of information under the Freedom of Information Act;

 9. Venue is proper in this district in that the records Manchester seeks are situated in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. *fn6" Bordley I P 14, Ex. "L" ("the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which is where the search was conducted");

 10. FOIA was enacted to ensure public access to government information. The purpose of the statute is to permit the public to scrutinize the government's performance of its duties and promote governmental honesty. EPA v. Mink, 410 U.S. 73, 79-80, 35 L. Ed. 2d 119, 93 S. Ct. 827 (1973). Doubts as to the propriety of disclosure are to be resolved in favor of openness. Providence Journal Co. v. United States Dept. of Army, 981 F.2d 552, 557 (1st Cir. 1992);

 11. Judicial review of an agency's denial of a FOIA request is de novo. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B); Lame v. United States Dept. of Justice, 654 F.2d 917, 921 (3d Cir. 1981). Any reasonably segregable and non-exempt portion of a record must be disclosed. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). The nine statutory disclosure *fn7" exemptions are to be narrowly construed and the burden is on the agency to sustain its action. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B); John Doe Agency v. John Doe Corp., 493 U.S. 146, 152, 107 L. Ed. 2d 462, 110 S. Ct. 471 (1989); Lame, 654 F.2d at 921;

 12. To prevail on summary judgment, the movant has the initial responsibility of pointing out the absence of genuine issues of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Once the moving party does so, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and show that there is a genuine issue for trial -- if necessary by filing affidavits. Id. at 323-24. Summary judgment requires the court to view all issues of material fact in a light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986); White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988);

 13. In a FOIA action, summary judgment is proper when the government's affidavits "'describe the withheld information and the justification for withholding with reasonable specificity, demonstrating a logical connection between the information and the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the record nor by evidence of agency bad faith.'" American Friends Serv. Comm. v. Department of Defense, 831 F.2d 441, 444 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting and adopting standard from Abbotts v. Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n, 247 U.S. App. D.C. 114, 766 F.2d 604, 606 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (citation omitted));

 14. FOIA permits, but does not require, an in camera inspection of the documents the government agency claims exempt. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). The decision to conduct an in camera review of the documents the government claims are exempt is within the broad discretion of the trial judge. Lam Lek Chong v. United States DEA, 289 U.S. App. D.C. 136, 929 F.2d 729, 735 (D.C. Cir. 1991). In camera inspection may be appropriate if agency affidavits insufficiently detail the justification for nondisclosure, thereby preventing a meaningful review of the cited exemptions, or if evidence of agency bad faith is before the court. Id. ;

 15. In the instant case, an in camera inspection of the documents DEA withheld or redacted is not warranted because Manchester has not provided this court with any evidence of agency bad faith, and the government's affidavits, discussed infra, permitted me to ...


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