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Manna v. U.S. Dept. of Justice

filed: April 5, 1995.

LOUIS ANTHONY MANNA, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE; UNITED STATES ATTORNEY DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY, APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (D.C. Civil Action No. 92-cv-01840).

Present: Becker and Hutchinson, Circuit Judges, and Joyner, District Judge*fn*

Author: Hutchinson

Opinion OF THE COURT

HUTCHINSON, Circuit Judge.

Pro se appellant, Louis Anthony Manna ("Manna"), appeals from a final judgment of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granting summary judgment in favor of appellees, the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney's Office - District of New Jersey (collectively "Government"). Manna, relying on the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C.A. § 552 (West 1977 & Supp. 1994), seeks disclosure of all government documents referring to him, apparently in an effort to prove both his "innocence" and government misconduct during the criminal prosecution that resulted in his incarceration. Although it turned over some documents, the Government asserted that others were exempt from disclosure under various FOIA exemptions. The district court agreed and, in two separate opinions, granted the Government summary judgment. Manna v. United States Dep't of Justice, 815 F. Supp. 798 (D.N.J. 1993); Manna v. United States Dep't of Justice, No. 92-1840 (D.N.J. August 25, 1993). Manna appeals the district court's decision with respect to those documents the Government claimed were exempted under sections 7(A), 7(C) and 7(D). 5 U.S.C.A. §§ 552(b)(7)(A), (C), (D). We affirm.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Manna, presently confined in the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, served for over eight years as "consigliere" under Vincent "Chin" Gigante in the powerful New Jersey faction of the "Genovese Crime Family" of "La Cosa Nostra" ("LCN"). The district court succinctly summarized the ruthless "business" activities the Genovese Crime Family routinely engages in, stating:

In the Northern New Jersey--New York Metropolitan area, the Genovese LCN Family has historically been one of the most powerful of the American Mafia criminal organizations. Today, the New Jersey contingent of the Genovese Family, through an entrenched network of racketeering operations, preys upon the transportation, shipping and construction industries. The Genovese LCN Family uses violence, intimidation and obstruction to further its organized criminal activities.

Manna, 815 F. Supp. at 802.

In 1989, a jury found Manna guilty, among other things, of RICO*fn1 offenses involving predicate violations of the Hobbs Act (extortion) and Taft-Hartley Act (bribery), organized gambling and three separate murder predicates relating to the affairs of the Genovese Crime Family. The convictions for conspiracy to murder in aid of racketeering involved the planned murders of John and Gene Gotti, high-ranking members of the "Gambino Family," and the notorious murder of Irwin Schiff in August 1987. The district court sentenced Manna, then aged sixty, to eighty years imprisonment. We affirmed Manna's conviction without opinion in United States v. Manna, 919 F.2d 733 (3d Cir. 1990) (table), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 949, 113 L. Ed. 2d 471, 111 S. Ct. 1418 (1991).

In May 1991, Manna filed a FOIA request generally seeking "all records in reference to himself" and specifically "all records in regards to any electronic surveillance, whether legal or illegal" in the Government's possession. Manna desired to prove not only "government misconduct and wrongdoing" during his criminal trial, but also his "innocence."

On or about October 25, 1991, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys ("EOUSA") (the Justice Department division charged with processing FOIA requests sent to United States Attorneys' offices) turned over certain records to Manna. EOUSA refused to turn over other documents, relying upon various FOIA exemptions. On March 25, 1992, the Office of Information and Privacy affirmed EOUSA's decision. EOUSA provided additional documents on June 10 and September 30, 1992, but again refused to turn over others, claiming each fell within a FOIA exemption. The records provided were mainly pre-trial and trial transcripts.

On May 1, 1992, after exhausting his administrative remedies, Manna filed suit in the district court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to compel disclosure of all documents in the Government's possession referring to him. On October 2, 1992, the Government moved for summary judgment. In support of its motion the Government filed: (1) the declarations of Robert C. Stewart, an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey and Chief of the Strike Force Division; (2) the declarations of Virginia L. Wright, a supervisory paralegal specialist with EOUSA; (3) the declarations of Evelyn F. Bock, a paralegal specialist employed by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey; (4) the declaration of Robert M. Hanna, an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey; (5) the declaration of Marcus Williams, an Attorney-Advisor in the Employment Law and Information Branch of the Office of General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Prisons; (6) the declaration and supplement thereto of Michael D. Turner, a Special Agent assigned to the Freedom of Information Management Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") in Washington, D.C.; and (7) two other declarations under seal.*fn2 Manna also submitted his own declaration in opposition to the Government's summary judgment motion and in support of his cross-motion for the same.

The district court, in a March 4, 1993, published opinion and an August 25, 1993, letter opinion, granted the Government's motion for summary judgment. Manna v. United States Dep't of Justice, 815 F. Supp. 798 (D.N.J. 1993); Manna v. United States Dep't of Justice, No. 92-1840 (D.N.J. August 25, 1993). With respect to Exemption 7(A) (interference with law enforcement proceedings) the district court concluded that the Government had "submitted sufficient evidence that these documents are instrumental to proceedings anticipated in the near future" and, thus, are exempt as they could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings.*fn3 Manna, 815 F. Supp. at 808.

As to the documents relating to Exemption 7(C) (personal privacy) the district court determined that the privacy interest of the interviewees, informants, witnesses, victims and law enforcement personnel outweighed any public interest asserted by Manna. Id. at 809. The court, in fact, concluded that Manna never showed "any public interest" in the information, let alone a public interest that would outweigh the demonstrated privacy interests. Id.

With regard to documents the Government claimed fell within Exemption 7(D) (confidential law enforcement sources) the district court determined that the Government had met its burden, reasoning that "sources were given numbers to protect their identities and were expressly assured that their identities and the information they provided would be held in confidence by the FBI."*fn4 Manna, No. 92-1840, slip op. at 17.

II. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

The district court had subject matter jurisdiction under FOIA, 5 U.S.C.A. § 552(a)(4)(B) and 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331 (West 1993). We have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 (West 1993).

In reviewing a grant of summary judgment in proceedings seeking disclosure under FOIA, we must first determine whether the district court had an adequate factual basis for its determination. McDonnell v. United States, 4 F.3d 1227, 1242 (3d Cir. 1993); Patterson v. FBI, 893 F.2d 595, 600 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 812, 112 L. Ed. 2d 24, 111 S. Ct. 48 (1990). To put the point differently, the appellate court

is to determine, from inspection of the agency affidavits submitted, whether the agency's explanation was full and specific enough to afford the FOIA requester a meaningful opportunity to contest, and the district court an adequate foundation to review, the soundness of the withholding.

McDonnell, 4 F.3d at 1242 (quoting King v. Dep't of Justice, 830 F.2d 210, 217-18 (D.C. Cir. 1987)). If this Court concludes that the evidence presented a sufficient factual basis, we must then decide whether the district court's determinations were clearly erroneous. Id. Under the clearly erroneous standard, we "'may reverse only if the findings are unsupported by substantial evidence, lack adequate evidentiary support in the record, are against the clear weight of the evidence or where the district court has misapprehended the weight of the ...


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