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DOOLITTLE v. U.S. DEPT. OF JUSTICE

May 3, 2001

MATTHIAS DOOLITTLE, PLAINTIFF,
V.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, AND U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, OFFICE OF INFORMATION AND PRIVACY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurd, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On September 18, 2000, plaintiff Matthias Doolittle ("Doolittle") commenced the instant action against defendants U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA"), and U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Information and Privacy*fn1 ("OIP") (collectively, the "defendants") pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 ("FOIA"), seeking access to certain records concerning himself maintained by DEA.

Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, on the grounds that plaintiff has received all of the requested information to which he is entitled under the FOIA. Plaintiff opposes.

II. FACTS

This action arises out of Doolittle's request for DEA records*fn2 concerning his arrest on drug charges in November 1996. The following are the facts as stated in the light most favorable to the non-moving plaintiff.

On December 9, 1999, Doolittle wrote to DEA requesting the release of records pertaining to himself. On December 15, 1999, DEA acknowledged receipt of plaintiffs request and indicated that it would be processed in the order it was received. On January 7, 2000, DEA released portions of 17 pages of records to Doolittle in response to his request. Nine pages were withheld in their entirety, and portions of the 17 pages released to plaintiff were redacted on the basis of exemptions provided under the FOIA.

Furthermore, on January 6, 2000, DEA indicated that Doolittle was mentioned in several "related" files, and that he would have to pay a search fee to have these files processed. By letter dated May 29, 2000, Doolittle agreed to pay this search fee. Through an apparent error by DEA, it appears that this letter was mishandled and his request was not acted upon until after the commencement of this litigation.

Doolittle was dissatisfied with DEA's response to his FOIA request. On February 10, 2000, he appealed DEA's response to the OIP. Doolittle objected to DEA's basis for withholding the records which were not provided to him, and also asserted that DEA had failed to respond to his request for records relating to a second search of his residence. His appeal was denied on August 23, 2000. Plaintiff commenced the instant action on September 18, 2000.

Subsequent to the commencement of this action, DEA acted upon Doolittle's letter of May 29, 2000. On February 9, 2001, portions of two pages of DEA records were released to plaintiff. Five pages were withheld in their entirety. DEA invoked FOIA exemptions (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(D), and Privacy Act exemption (j)(2) in support of its decision to withhold these records. With regard to Doolittle's claim that DEA had failed to release records relating to a second search of his residence, DEA Paralegal Specialist Leila I. Wassom ("Wassom") stated:

Regarding the plaintiffs allegation that DEA failed to provide documents to the plaintiff concerning an alleged "second . . . search of the plaintiffs residence . . ." [sic] The plaintiff does not provide a date on which the alleged search took place. DEA has released all non-exempt documents pursuant to the plaintiff's FOIA/PA request.

(Wassom Supp. Decl. at 2.)

Doolittle submitted a response to Wassom's supplemental affidavit ("Pl. Response"). Doolittle attached a portion of the minutes of his sentencing hearing to this response as Exhibit 1. During the sentencing hearing, Doolittle's attorney stated that the alleged second search occurred "approximately a day later, or maybe even later that same day, some twelve hours ...


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