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Lee v. United States Dep't of Justice

March 30, 2006

PAUL LEE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bloch, District J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment (document No. 44) in this action. For the reasons set forth below, this motion is granted in part and denied in part, and, accordingly, Counts II, III, IV, VII, and XII of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint are hereby dismissed with prejudice.

I. Background

Plaintiff's claims in this case essentially fall under two categories. Part I of the First Amended Complaint ("Amended Complaint" or "Am. Compl.") sets forth 8 counts in which Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 ("FOIA") and the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a ("PA") by refusing to provide him with records that he requested from various agencies which are components of the Department of Justice ("DOJ") pursuant to those statutes. In particular, Count I pertains to requests under the FOIA and PA to the United States Marshals Service ("USMS"); Count II pertains to requests to the Executive Office for United States Attorneys ("EOUSA"); Counts III and IV pertain to requests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"); Count V pertains to requests to the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"); and Count VII pertains to requests to the Office of Information and Privacy ("OIP"). Part II (Counts IX through XI and Count XII) of the Amended Complaint contains allegations regarding the interrogation of Plaintiff by DOJ agents and the disclosure of an affidavit by the DOJ to third parties.*fn1

A. Count I

On August 4, 2003, the USMS received a letter from Plaintiff dated July 1, 2003, requesting: all documents within the following locations that relate to me, mention me, or otherwise list my name:

1. Western District of Pennsylvania

2. Southern District of West Virginia

3. Northern District of West Virginia

4. Eastern District of Kentucky

5. Western District of Kentucky

6. Middle District of Pennsylvania

7. District of Maryland

8. District of Columbia

9. EOUSA HQ

10. Northern District of New York

11. Southern District of New York

12. All Districts within Ohio

(Declaration of Florastine P. Graham ("Graham Declaration" or "Graham Decl.") at ¶ 2, Ex. A)).*fn2 By letter dated August 5, 2003, the USMS acknowledged the receipt of Plaintiff's request and informed him that a search for responsive documents had commenced and that he would be contacted when the processing was complete. (Graham Decl. at ¶ 3).

The search for records pertaining to Plaintiff was conducted in the thirteen district offices identified in his request. To aid in this search, each USMS office was supplied with Plaintiff's date of birth, social security number, and prisoner number, all of which were provided by Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 4).

As a result of the search conducted by the specified USMS offices, 88 pages of records pertaining to Plaintiff were located in the Northern District of West Virginia and the Middle District of Pennsylvania in the Prison Processing and Population Management/Prisoner Tracking System (PPM/PTS), JUSTICE/USM-005, and the Warrant Information Network (WIN), JUSTICE/USM-007, systems of records. Records maintained in these systems are compiled for law enforcement purposes in connection with USMS receipt, processing, transportation, and custody of prisoners; the execution of Federal arrest warrants; and the investigation of fugitive matters, and they are exempt from access provisions of the Privacy Act. Thus, to provide maximum access, Plaintiff's records were processed for disclosure pursuant to the FOIA. (Graham Decl. at ¶ 6).

By letter dated November 6, 2003, the Office of General Counsel ("OGC") informed Plaintiff that it had located documents that may be responsive to his requests and indicated that he should complete the enclosed Certification of Identity form, DOJ-361 and return the form to the USMS. The letter further stated that upon receipt of that information, the OGC would correspond further with Plaintiff regarding his request. (Id., Ex. D). Although Plaintiff initially appealed this request to the FOIA/PA Appeals Officer for the OIP (Id., Ex. E), he did, on November 24, 2003, complete and return the DOJ-361 form. (Id. at ¶ 8, Ex. F).*fn3

By letter dated December 15, 2003, the USMS released to Plaintiff 83 of the 88 records located in response to his request, 17 of which were disclosed with deletions pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(c). (Id. at ¶ 9, Ex. G). Five documents were referred to the EOUSA. (Id.).

Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal of the USMS's action on his request by a letter dated December 29, 2003, and the OIP, which is responsible for FOIA/PA appeals within the DOJ, subsequently closed this appeal by letter dated March 23, 2004 in response to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (Id. at ¶ 11, Ex. I, K).*fn4

In light of Plaintiff's statements in his Brief in Opposition to the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count I ("Plaintiff's Brief as to Count I" or "Pl. Brief as to Count I"), in which he alleged that the USMS had not conducted an adequate search, the USMS conducted a second search for records relating to Plaintiff. (Declaration of William E. Bordley ("Bordley Decl.") at ¶ 6). In particular, Plaintiff claimed in his brief that records relating to him existed pertaining to a case involving Keith Maydak. (Pl. Brief as to Count I; Bordley Decl. at ¶ 6). Accordingly, the USMS searched by hand its files regarding Maydak, which had already been collected based on a prior FOIA/PA request made by Maydak, for records regarding Plaintiff. Moreover, a second search was made in the Western District of Pennsylvania, the Eastern District of Kentucky, and the USMS Headquarters Investigative Services Division. The search including searching not only for records indexed to Plaintiff's name, but also for records on Plaintiff in the files of Maydak and another file regarding a threat made against Judge Alan Bloch. (Bordley Decl. at ¶¶ 6-8).

Based on the additional searches, the USMS, by letter dated March 31, 2005, provided a supplemental response to Plaintiff's requests. (Id. at ¶ 9; Declaration of Arleta Cunningham ("Cunningham Decl.") at ¶ 4, Ex. A). The USMS informed Plaintiff that 488 pages of documents had been located which were responsive to his request. Of the 488 pages, 234 pages orginated with, or had information that originated with, other agencies, and these pages were referred to those agencies. The USMS disclosed 144 pages to Plaintiff in their entirety and 93 pages with information excised and withheld pursuant to various provisions of 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). The remaining 17 pages were withheld in their entirety. (Bordley Decl. at ¶ 9; Cunningham Decl. at ¶ 6, Ex. A).

B. Count II

Plaintiff submitted a FOIA/PA request to the EOUSA for processing by letter dated July 1, 2003, requesting: all documents within the following locations that relate to me, mention me, or otherwise list my name:

1. Western District of Pennsylvania

2. Southern District of West Virginia

3. Northern District of West Virginia

4. Eastern District of Kentucky

5. Western District of Kentucky

6. Middle District of Pennsylvania

7. District of Maryland

8. District of ...


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