Long v. U.S. Dept. of Justice

Decision Date08 September 2006
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. 00-0211 PLF.,No. 02-2467 PLF.,CIV.A. 00-0211 PLF.,02-2467 PLF.
Citation450 F.Supp.2d 42
PartiesSusan B. LONG, et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Michael Edward Tankersley, Federal Trade Commission Division of Marketing Practices, Scott Lawrence Nelson, Public Citizen Litigation Group, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Anne L. Weismann, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Elizabeth Goitein, United States Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

OPINION

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Susan B. Long and David Burnham have filed the above-captioned cases to challenge the responses of the United States Department of Justice to a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq., for records from or relating to the central case management databases of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (the "EOUSA"), a component of the Department of Justice. The consolidated cases are before the Court for consideration of (1) two motions for partial summary judgment filed by plaintiffs in Civil Action No. 00-0211 ("Long I"); (2) the Department's motion for summary judgment filed in Long I; and (3) the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment filed in Civil Action No. 02-2467 ("Long II"). Upon consideration of the arguments of the parties as set forth in their voluminous briefs and at oral argument in Long I, the Court denies as moot plaintiffs' first motion for partial summary judgment filed in Long I. The Court grants in part and denies in part plaintiffs' second motion for partial summary judgment filed in Long I and plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment filed in Long II. The Court also grants in part and denies in part the Department's motions for summary judgment filed in both Long I and Long I.1

I. BACKGROUND
A. The Central Case Management Databases

Each of the 94 United States Attorney's Offices ("USAOs") maintains computerized record-keeping systems for civil, criminal, and debt collection cases, and for personnel resource matters. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed in Long II, May 30, 2003 ("Def. Mot. (Long II )"), Declaration of Marie A. O'Rourke ("O'Rourke Decl.") ¶ 5. Every month, computer programs maintained by the USAOs automatically extract certain pre-determined fields of information from their computer databases and transmit the information electronically to the EOUSA. Id. The EOUSA, in turn, uses the information it receives to compile various centralized databases (the "central case management databases") that track the work of each of the 94 USAOs. Id. For example, the central case management databases contain information on matters such as how many and what types of criminal investigations various law enforcement agencies have referred to USAOs for prosecution; the outcome of criminal prosecutions (including sentences); and the types and results of civil actions brought by or against federal agencies.

The EOUSA uses the information contained in the central case management databases to justify budget requests, allocate resources among USAOs, and produce management reports. O'Rourke Decl. ¶ 6. The EOUSA also uses the information to produce numerous periodicals and ad hoc reports for the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB"), the Government Accountability Office ("GAO"), Congress, and various federal agencies and private sector organizations. Id. The databases are updated on a monthly basis, and at the end of each fiscal year information from the databases is used to produce the United States Attorneys' Annual Statistical Report, which is made available to the public. Id.

At issue in these consolidated cases are the central case management databases relating only to criminal, civil, and debt collection matters.2

1. Criminal and Civil Matters

The EOUSA compiles the information it receives from the USAOs related to criminal and civil matters into a record-keeping system known as the "Central System." See O'Rourke Decl. ¶ 5.3 The information in the Central System currently is divided into five core files: (1) the "criminal flagged master" file, which contains records pertaining to criminal cases and investigations; (2) the "criminal immediate declination" file, which contains records of criminal offenses for which federal prosecution immediately was declined by the USAOs upon referral (requiring less than one hour of Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") time); (3) the "criminal charge" or "central charge" file, which contains records of all criminal matters that entered the prosecutorial phase; (4) the "civil flagged master" file, which contains records pertaining to civil cases and investigations; and (5) the "civil immediate declination" file, which contains records pertaining to requests for affirmative civil litigation that immediately were declined by the USAOs upon referral (requiring less than one hour of AUSA time). See Def. Mot. (Long II), Declaration of Siobahn E. Sperin ("Sperin Decl. (Long II)") ¶ 3.

The Central System also contains (1) criminal and civil "unflagged master" files, which contain records from the "flagged master" files, but without certain added "flags" that allow the EOUSA to analyze the data for statistical purposes; and (2) criminal and civil "delete history" files, which are systems maintenance files that contain records that are no longer placed in the master files because more than six successive months have elapsed since the EOUSA received a matching record from the relevant USAO. See Sperin Decl. (Long II) ¶4.4

Each case or investigation appears within these files as a single "record." Garvey Decl. (Long I) ¶ 8. Each record, in turn, contains a set number of "fields" of information depending upon the type of file in which it appears. See id. For example, criminal flagged master records contain more than 100 fields, while the criminal charge records contain 13 fields. See Def. Mot. (Long I), Exhibit 0 (Central System Vaughn Index). The category of information contained in each field is pre-determined, and each field bears a label that generally relates to that category. Examples include "defendant name," "criminal lead charge," "arrest date," "agency file number," and "court number." See id.

2. Debt Collection Matters

The EOUSA compiles the information it receives from the USAOs related to debt collection matters into a record-keeping system known as the Transactional Informational Government Accounting System, or "TIGAS." Def. Mot. (Long I), Declaration of Rhonda M. Price ("Price Decl.") ¶ 3.5 TIGAS, which is a "relational database," is structured somewhat differently from the Central System (and its predecessor, the DNR System). In the DNR and Central Systems, which are "flat-file systems," the files are self-contained units, and information from one file cannot be accessed from another file. See Garvey Decl. (Long I) ¶ 3.6 In a relational database, information is subdivided into tables, and connections or linkages can be programmed between the tables, allowing the data maintained in one table to be related to the data stored in another. TIGAS data is stored in two tables: one contains 65 fields, and the other contains 28 fields. Each debt collection matter appears in TIGAS as a record and generally has information stored in both tables. See Price Decl. ¶ 5.

B. Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

Plaintiffs are co-directors of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse ("TRAC"), a nonprofit organization affiliated with Syracuse University. TRAC compiles information about the functioning of federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies, analyzes the data, and publishes reports. See Pl. Combined Mem. (Long I) at 5; Brief in Support of Plaintiffs' Resubmitted Motion for Summary Judgment, filed in Long II, May 16, 2003 ("Pl. Mem. (Long II )") at 2; TRAC website, available at http://trac.syr.edu/. TRAC also makes data compilations and tools for analyzing data available to others—including Congress, journalists, scholars, public interest organizations and other members of the public. See Plaintiff's Resubmitted Motion for Summary Judgment, filed in Long II, May 16, 2003 ("Pl. Mot. (Long II)") Declaration of Susan Long ("Long Decl. (Long II)") ¶ 4. TRAC data and studies have been cited by congressional leaders and news organizations in debates over gun control, tax policy, immigration, terrorism, and similar law enforcement issues. See Pl. Mem. (Long II) at 2 & n. 2, 4-5 (listing examples).

C. The FOIA Requests at Issue
1. Long I

Since 1989, TRAC has requested release of the EOUSA's central case management data under the FOIA. In response to past requests, the Department released to TRAC electronic copies of the data for fiscal years 1974 through 1997 but withheld various fields of information, thus giving rise to disputes between TRAC and the Department. See Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Preliminary Injunction and Consolidation of Preliminary Hearing with Consideration of the Merits, filed in Long I, May 16, 2000 ("Pl. Mot. (Long I, 5/16/00)"), Declaration of Susan Long ("Long Decl. (Long I )") ¶ 3.7 The disputes culminated in March 1998, when plaintiffs, on behalf of TRAC, sued the Department for the release of data from two of the USAOs that provide data to the EOUSA. See Long v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 10 F.Supp.2d 205 (N.D.N.Y.1998).

In connection with that litigation, the Department was ordered, on July 7, 1998, to produce an index of the records and portions thereof that were withheld in accordance with Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C.Cir.1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977, 94 S.Ct. 1564, 39 L.Ed.2d 873 (1974) (a so-called "Vaughn" index"). Long v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 10 F.Supp.2d 205, 209, 211 (N.D.N.Y.1998). On June 17, 1999, the Department completed a Vaughn index...

To continue reading

Request your trial
82 cases
  • Seized Property Recovery v. U.S. Customs
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 17 Agosto 2007
    ...of the information could reasonably be expected to cause some articulable harm to the proceeding. See Long v. United States Dep't of Justice, 450 F.Supp.2d 42, 73 (D.D.C. 2006). 1. Pending or Prospective Law Enforcement The parties disagree over whether there are ongoing law enforcement pro......
  • Miller v. U.S. Dept. of Justice
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 24 Junio 2008
    ...Dep't of Justice, 636 F.2d 472, 485 (D.C.Cir.1980) (upholding decision to withhold codes of this nature); Long v. United States Dep't of Justice, 450 F.Supp.2d 42, 56 (D.D.C. 2006), order amended on recons., 457 F.Supp.2d 30 (D.D.C), and order amended, 479 F.Supp.2d 23 (D.D.C.2007) b. BATFE......
  • Nat'l Sec. Counselors v. Cent. Intelligence Agency
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 17 Octubre 2012
    ...produce entire fields of data from particular electronic databases in response to a FOIA request, see, e.g., Long v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 450 F. Supp. 2d 42, 48 (D.D.C. 2006) (DOJ produced several fields from "the EOUSA's central case management data under the FOIA"), and such requests co......
  • Nat'l Sec. Counselors v. Cent. Intelligence Agency
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 17 Octubre 2012
    ...entire fields of data from particular electronic databases in response to a FOIA request, see, e.g., Long v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 450 F.Supp.2d 42, 48 (D.D.C.2006) (DOJ produced several fields from “the EOUSA's central case management data under the FOIA”), and such requests could certain......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT