March 21, 2013
Re: Requests for e-mails among certain individuals, an investigative report, and Outlook calendar
Disposition: Granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment
- Adequacy of Search: The court finds that “Interior’s search was adequate and reasonable.” The requests were processed by the Interior’s Office of the Secretary and “forwarded . . . to other offices for searches in accord with the type of information that [plaintiff] requested.” “Because [plaintiff] requested ‘records relating to emails and office activities of the [[Office of Valuation Services] OVS]’ . . . the OVS, National Business Center, and the persons whose e-mails were requested were those likely to be in possession of responsive records.”
- Exemption 5/Deliberative Process Privilege & Attorney Work Product Privilege: The defendant “withheld: (1) policy document drafts; (2) legal advice to Interior personnel; (2) internal communications related to other litigation; and (4) conference call numbers and passwords.” The court rejects plaintiff’s argument that she is entitled to emails “because the FOIA statute protects from disclosure only ‘memorandum and letters.’ E-mails are often today’s equivalent of what would have been memorandums in another decade.” The court concludes that the plaintiff’s “bald assertions” regarding the content of the e-mails “are insufficient to survive summary judgment.” Regarding the conference call numbers and passwords, the court explains that although these pieces of information are not protected by Exemption 5, the plaintiff is not interested in obtaining this information.
- Exemption 6: The defendant withheld: “(1) e-mail addresses, (2) personnel matters, (3) personal health, (4) personal health of third parties, and (5) days that employees take leave.” The court finds that the defendant’s declaration “supports Interior’s decision to withhold the specified information pursuant to Exemption 6.” The plaintiff’s “vague, unsupported arguments to the contrary” are unavailing. Further, the plaintiff “has proffered no facts to contradict Interior’s assertion that the redacted information falls outside the scope of her requests.” The court concludes, “[b]ecause an agency has ‘no obligation to produce information that is not responsive to a FOIA request,’ there is no reason for this Court to find these redactions improper, even if not exempted from FOIA disclosure.”