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DOW JONES & CO. v. UNITED STATES DOJ

January 5, 1995

DOW JONES & COMPANY, INC. and ROBERT L. BARTLEY, Plaintiffs, against UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S.D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SONIA SOTOMAYOR

OPINION AND ORDER

 Plaintiffs Dow Jones & Company, Inc. ("Dow Jones") and Robert L. Bartley ("Bartley") seek disclosure, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, of two reports, one prepared by the United States Park Police (the "Park Police") and the other by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (the "FBI"), concerning the death of former deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, and a photocopy of a torn-up note (the "Note") , apparently written by Foster, and found in his briefcase several days after his death. The Department of Justice ("DOJ") has refused to release portions of the Reports or copies of the Note, maintaining that 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(7)(A) & 552(b)(7)(C) exempt them from disclosure. Plaintiffs move, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, for partial summary judgment enjoining DOJ from withholding the requested documents on the ground that DOJ waived the claimed exemptions. DOJ cross-moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. For the reasons discussed below, plaintiffs' motion is denied in part and granted in part, and defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 A. The DOJ Press Conference

 At a press conference held on August 10, 1993 (the "Press Conference"), the then Deputy Attorney General announced that the Park Police and the FBI had provided him with completed reports (the "Reports") of their respective investigations. The Chief of the Park Police, Robert Langston, and the Special Agent in charge of the FBI's Washington, D.C. field office, Robert Bryant, who had both read all or part of their agencies' respective Reports, acted as agency spokespersons and discussed the investigations and the conclusions reached. Among the information disclosed at the Press Conference was that:

 
1. based on the condition of the scene, the medical examiner's findings and information gathered during its investigation, the Park Police had concluded that Mr. Foster's death was a suicide;
 
2. the FBI had completed its investigation into the handling of the Note and determined that nothing illegal or improper had occurred;
 
3. the White House Counsel's office had conducted the initial search of Mr. Foster's office and set aside its initial invocation of the executive privilege after discussions with DOJ, ostensibly prompted by discussions between the Park Police and DOJ about the privilege issue;
 
4. there were no fingerprints on the Note when it was turned over to the FBI, only a smudged palm print, and the Park Police could not determine who had torn up the Note;
 
5. Mr. Foster's widow told investigators that she had advised her husband to write a list of issues that had been troubling him;
 
6. only one gun was found near Mr. Foster's body, and members of the Foster family told investigators they believed the gun to be Mr. Foster's;
 
7. Mr. Foster had spoken with a doctor about depression, and anti-depressant medication had been prescribed, but investigators were unaware of any particular incident that might have prompted Mr. Foster to commit suicide.

 Noting that the press "m[ight] want to see [the Note] so that [they] could describe what it looks like," the Deputy Attorney General informed the audience that Carl Stern of DOJ would "have a copy available and anyone who wanted to see it was welcome to see it." Transcript at 1. Thereafter, members of the media inspected the Note in Mr. Stern's office; plaintiff Bartley viewed the Note in October 1993.

 Prior to concluding the Press Conference, Mr. Stern stated that media members who wanted to obtain copies of the Reports should submit FOIA requests to DOJ. DOJ received plaintiffs' request (the "FOIA Request") for the Reports on August 18, 1993.

 B. Appointment of Independent Counsel Fiske

 On January 20, 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Robert Fiske independent counsel (the "Independent Counsel") to investigate whether any individuals or entities had violated any federal laws relating in any way to the President or Mrs. Clinton's relationship to Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, Whitewater Development Corporation or Capital Management Services. The Independent Counsel was also authorized to investigate and prosecute any other violations of federal criminal law "developed during" his investigation of the above matters "and connected with or arising out of that investigation," any violations of 28 U.S.C. § 1826, and any obstruction of justice or false testimony in connection therewith. Under this authority, the Independent Counsel's ...


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