Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. ATF

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 8, 2017

KELLY ANTHONY WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
v.
ATF, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAUL W. GRIMM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         After requesting documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) three times under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. §552, [1] and not receiving any response, Plaintiff Kelly Anthony Williams filed suit against AFT. Compl., ECF No. 1; see Supp., ECF No. 4. ATF has moved for summary judgment, insisting that it properly withheld some information but otherwise disclosed the documents requested. ECF No. 29.[2] Because ATF's response to Williams's renewed request was reasonable and complied with the FOIA, ATF's motion shall be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Complaint Allegations

         Williams, who is an inmate committed to the custody of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and confined at Maryland Correctional Institution - Hagerstown, claims that he first requested documents from the ATF in December of 2013. Compl. 1-2. According to Williams, the documents he sought relate to a criminal case against him and the seizure of his girlfriend Keri Crews's shotgun from his apartment. Id. at 2. He requested “any information relayed to or from the Anne Arundel County Police in Maryland, ” as well as “any report on Keri Crews, ” who was a possible witness in his criminal trial. Id. He never received a response. Id.

         Williams states he “wrote a simplier [sic] request” in March of 2014. Id. He did not receive a response to that request, either. Id.

         In October of 2014, Williams sent a third request for the same information by certified mail. Id. He claims that “if the ATF is withholding this information intentionally they are impending justice and in violation of the MPIA and FOIA.” Id. At the time Williams filed suit, he had not received a response to his requests from the ATF. Id.

         Williams seeks monetary damages in the amount of $500, 000 “for the pain and suffering caused from impeding justice for the last 20 months.” Compl. 3. He also seeks an injunction ordering the ATF to provide him with “copies of all ATF reports, interviews, search warrants, information, records collected, prepared or maintained, to or from the Anne Arundel County Police in Maryland, pertaining to” himself and Crews. Id.

         B. Procedural History of this Case

         ATF initially filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, ECF No. 11, accompanied by an affidavit in which Stephanie M. Boucher, Chief of ATF's Disclosure Division, stated that a search of ATF's records did not show any receipt of Williams's request. Jan. 5, 2016 Boucher Decl. ¶¶ 6-7, ECF No. 11-2. In response, Williams filed a copy of the FOIA requests he had sent to ATF. ECF No. 13. The ATF then requested and was granted a stay of these proceedings to process the FOIA requests. ECF Nos. 16 and 17. After receiving a renewed request from Williams and processing that request, details of which are set forth below, ATF filed the pending Motion for Summary Judgment.

         C. ATF's Response to Williams's FOIA Requests

         When reviewing Williams's requests, the ATF sent him a letter advising that in order to obtain records about himself and Crews, he would need to fill out a Form DOJ-361s (“Certification of Identity”) and return it to the ATF. June 29, 2016 Boucher Decl. ¶ 4, Def.'s Ex. 1B.[3] On July 14, 2016, the ATF received Williams's July 4, 2016 renewed FOIA request, along with a completed Form DOJ-361s.[4] July 4, 2016 Req., Def.'s Ex. 1-C. The Disclosure Division of the ATF acknowledged receipt of those documents by letter dated July 15, 2016. July 15, 2016 Ltr., Def.'s Ex. 1-D.

         On August 31, 2016, the Disclosure Division identified 162 pages of documents in response to Williams's request. Aug. 31, 2016 Ltr., Def.'s Ex. 1-E. Of the 162 pages identified, 33 pages were disclosed in full; 68 pages were released in part; 56 pages were withheld in full (22 pages of the withheld documents were duplicates); and 5 pages were referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (“FBI”) for processing. Id. Williams was provided with the contact information for the FBI in the event he had questions regarding the 5 pages referred to that office. Id.

         The ATF withheld information responsive to Williams's request based on the exemptions under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3), (6), (7)(C) and (7)(E). Id. In her Declaration, Boucher provides a description of the search conducted to locate material responsive to Williams's request. Feb. 13, 2017 Boucher Decl. ¶¶ 9-16.

         The Disclosure Division withheld “Firearms Trace[5] Summaries” from the responsive documents provided to Williams. Feb. 13, 2017 Boucher Decl. ¶ 20. Defendant relies upon the FOIA exemption from disclosure for the Firearms Trace Summaries. Id. (citing 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3)). That exemption “permits withholding of information prohibited from disclosure by another statute” when “the statute either (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue, or (B) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld.” Id. In Williams's case, the information was withheld on the first ground because it was subject to a statute prohibiting its disclosure. Id. ¶¶ 21-35; see, Def.'s Mem. 9 (citing Consol. Appropriations Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 112-55, 125 Stat. 552 (2011)).

         Boucher describes the information withheld from Williams under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) and (b)(7)(C), which protect personal privacy interests, Boucher Decl. ¶¶ 36-41, as follows:

the names of Federal and local law enforcement agents and employees as well as information by which those individuals could be identified;
the names of Assistant United States Attorneys as well as information by which those individuals could be identified;
the names of non-law enforcement third parties as well as information by which those individuals could be identified; and
information relating to criminal enforcement cases of non-law enforcement third parties as well as information by which those third parties could be identified, including personal information, any statements made by those third parties, actions taken by those third parties, or specific knowledge that those third parties had.

Id. ¶ 42.

         ATF withheld the law enforcement codes found on Treasury Enforcement Communications System (“TECS”) documents pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E), which protects law enforcement techniques and procedures and guidelines for investigations. Boucher Decl. ¶¶ 49-50.

         On October 14, 2016, the FBI confirmed by letter that they had provided a direct response to Williams regarding the five pages of documents referred by the ATF. Oct. 14, 2016 Ltrs., Def.'s Ex. 1-F. The FBI provided the five pages free-of-charge to Williams, id., but deleted portions, as the FBI determined they were exempt from full disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 552a(j)(2). Id.

         Boucher states under oath that all information that both is responsive to Williams's request and can legally be released has been provided to Williams. Boucher Decl. ¶ 53.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations ..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see also Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986). The existence of only a “scintilla of evidence” is not enough to defeat a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.