United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division
ORDER, AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge
the Court are: (1) Plaintiff David Braun's Fed.R.Civ.P.
56 motion for summary judgment, and (2) Defendant Federal
Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) cross motion for summary
judgment under Rule 56. For the reasons discussed, the Court
recommends the FBI's motion be granted, and this action
appearing pro se, commenced this action against the FBI
asserting claims under the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C.
§§ 552a et seq. He seeks to obtain
information and documents in the FBI's possession
concerning unspecified investigations. Specifically, by
letter dated May 21, 2015, Braun requested “all records
off [sic] investigations generated buy [sic] contacts with
the FBI over the years.” (Doc. 2-1 at 1.) In his
letter, Braun referenced his prior requests for records, and
requested that the FBI update its search of pertinent records
for new documents.
January 29, 2016, the FBI identified 119 pages of documents
that it reviewed in response to Braun's request, and it
released 88 pages of those documents. In withholding the
remainder of the documents, the FBI identified various legal
exemptions for not producing those documents.
appealed the FBI's decision to withhold various
documents. Ultimately, the Department of Justice's Office
of Information Policy affirmed the FBI's decision.
September 7, 2016, the FBI disclosed additional documents to
Braun in response to his request. As a result, the FBI
decided to release a total of 108 pages of the original 119
pages it reviewed. In its September 7, 2016 letter the FBI
again identified various provisions of law justifying its
decision to withhold or redact certain information and
documents. (Doc. 40-8.)
moves for summary judgment dismissing this action on the
ground that it has produced to Braun all the documents to
which Braun is entitled to receive under both the Privacy Act
and the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552
(FOIA). For the reasons discussed, the Court agrees the FBI
has satisfied its disclosure obligations.
Applicable Law - Summary Judgment
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) entitles a party to summary
judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” In deciding a motion for
summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all
justifiable inferences in the non-moving party's favor.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986); Betz v. Trainer Wortham & Co., Inc., 504
F.3d 1017, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2007).
presented with cross-motions for summary judgment on the same
matters, the court must “evaluate each motion
separately, giving the non-moving party the benefit of all
reasonable inferences.” American Civil Liberties
Union of Nevada v. City of Las Vegas, 333 F.3d 1092,
1097 (9th Cir. 2003).
because Braun is proceeding pro se the Court must construe
his documents liberally and give them “the benefit of
any doubt” with respect to the FBI's summary
judgment motion. Frost v. Symington, 197 F.3d 348,
352 (9th Cir. 1999). See also Erickson v.
Pardus 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
believes the records responsive to Braun's request are
documents “compiled in the course of the FBI's
investigation of [Braun's] possible involvement with
threats against judges, law enforcement and U.S. Postal
Service workers.” (Doc. 38 at 2.) But in its summary
judgment motion the FBI argues it has complied with its
obligations to produce the information and documents as
imposed under the Privacy Act and FOIA. Specifically, it
argues (1) Braun has no viable claim for relief under the
Privacy Act, and (2) the legal exemptions set forth in FOIA
support its decision to withhold several documents from
disclosure to Braun.
summary judgment motion asserts the FBI has unlawfully
withheld or redacted information and documents. He argues
generally, and without evidentiary support, that he is
entitled to summary judgment requiring the FBI to produce all
of the documents to him.
general, the purpose of the Privacy Act is “to
‘protect the privacy of individuals' through
regulation of the ‘collection, maintenance, use, and
dissemination of information' by federal agencies.”
Rouse v. United States Department of State, 567 F.3d
408, 413 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). The
Privacy Act permits individuals to pursue civil remedies
against a federal agency in limited circumstances to enforce
the agency's compliance with the requirements of the Act.
Id. One available remedy is a legal action under
authority of 5 U.S.C. §§ 552a(d)(1) and
552a(g)(1)(B) to gain access to information maintained by an
agency. Id. at 413-414.
Privacy Act, however, imposes limitations on, or exemptions
from, an agency's obligation to produce documents.
Specifically, the Privacy Act exempts from disclosure
specifically identified records maintained by an agency
“which performs as its principal function any activity
pertaining to the enforcement of criminal laws[, ]” and
the statute permits agencies to promulgate regulations
pertaining to the exempt records. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(j)(2).
The Department of Justice, within which the FBI operates, has
exempted from disclosure law enforcement investigative
records maintained in the Central Records System. 28 C.F.R.
submitted the declaration of David Hardy, a Section Chief
responsible for maintaining FBI records. Hardy asserts the
specific records the FBI withheld from production from Braun
were criminal investigation documents maintained in the
Central Records System and, therefore, are exempt from