CASILLAS-PRIETO v. UNITED STATES MARSHAL SERVICE et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re: 38 Defendant's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment. Please see the attached Memorandum Opinion for additional details. Signed by Judge Amit P. Mehta on 6/7/2021. (lcapm3)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
UNITED STATES MARSHAL SERVICE,
Case No. 19-cv-00765 (APM)
Plaintiff Alejandro Casillas-Prieto, proceeding pro se, brings this action under the Freedom
of Information Act (“FOIA”) against the United States Marshals Service (“USMS” or
“Defendant”), seeking legal visitation records related to his term of confinement at a USMS
contract facility in Fannin County, Texas. For a second time, Defendant moves for summary
judgment, stating that the documents Plaintiff seeks are not “agency records” under FOIA. After
considering the parties’ submissions and the record evidence, the court grants Defendant’s motion.
In an October 26, 2017, letter to Defendant, Plaintiff stated that he “need[ed] to obtain
copies of [ALL] legal visitation records, e.g.[,] attorneys, law enforcement officials,
investigators, . . . includ[ing] the dates, times, and years beginning in 2010 through 2017,” from
Fannin County Jail. Complaint, ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Compl.], Ex. 3, ECF No. 1-3, at 1. On
January 12, 2018, Defendant responded that it had “conducted a search of its records and files in
the Prisoner Operations Division” and failed to locate any responsive records. Compl., Ex. 5,
ECF No. 1-5, at 1.
On March 6, 2019, after unsuccessfully appealing Defendant’s determination to the
Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy, Plaintiff filed this suit seeking declaratory
and injunctive relief. See Def.’s Renewed Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 38 [hereinafter Def.’s
Renewed Mot.], Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 38-1 [hereinafter Def.’s
Br.], at 3. Afterwards, as an act of good faith, Defendant searched its systems for any records
pertaining to Plaintiff. Id. at 4. The search produced 26 pages of records, which Defendant
processed and released to Plaintiff in correspondence dated October 11, 2019. Id. The records
were subject to withholdings pursuant to FOIA Exemptions (b)(6), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(E), and
(b)(7)(F). Id. at 4–5.
On April 1, 2020, Defendant filed its first motion for summary judgment, arguing that its
search was adequate and that any withholdings in the voluntarily produced pages were proper. See
generally Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 26, Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J.,
ECF No. 26-1. On December 7, 2020, the court denied the motion. See Order, ECF No. 35
[hereinafter Order]. The court found a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Defendant
had “control” over the Fannin County records and, thus, whether the records were “agency
records” for FOIA purposes. Id. at 2. As for the voluntarily produced records, Plaintiff did not
challenge the application of any exemptions, but Defendant’s declaration in support of its motion
contained no affirmation regarding the required segregability review, so the court deferred any
ruling on summary judgment. Id. at 2–3; see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b) (“Any reasonably segregable
portion of a record shall be provided to any person requesting such record after deletion of the
portions which are exempt.”). The court permitted Defendant to renew its motion, which it now
Most FOIA cases are appropriately decided on motions for summary judgment. See Defs.
of Wildlife v. U.S. Border Patrol, 623 F. Supp. 2d 83, 87 (D.D.C. 2009). A court may award
summary judgment in a FOIA case by relying on the agency’s affidavits or declarations if they are
“relatively detailed and non-conclusory,” SafeCard Servs., Inc. v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200 (D.C.
Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted), and if they describe “the documents and the
justifications for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail, demonstrate that the information
withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by either contrary
evidence in the record nor by evidence of agency bad faith,” Mil. Audit Project v. Casey, 656 F.
2d 724, 738 (D.C. Cir. 1981). The court affords such declarations “substantial weight” if they
meet these requirements. Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dep’t of Def., 715 F.3d 937, 940–41 (D.C. Cir.
The requested legal visitation records are not “agency records” for the purposes of FOIA.
Under FOIA, federal courts are empowered to “order the production of any agency records
improperly withheld from the complainant.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B). The Supreme Court has
held that for documents to qualify as “agency records,” the agency must both (1) “create or obtain”
the requested materials, and (2) “be in control of [them] at the time the FOIA request is made.”
U.S. Dep’t of Justice v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 144–45 (1989) (quoting Forsham v. Harris,
445 U.S. 169, 182 (1980)). Neither requirement is satisfied here.
As to the first prong, Charlotte Luckstone, Associate General Counsel in the Office of
General Counsel, U.S. Marshals Service, attests: “The USMS does not create, preserve, and/or
retain visitation records (or other similar administrative records) originating from a detention
facility with whom the USMS contracts.” Def.’s Renewed Mot., Second Decl. of Charlotte
Luckstone, ECF No. 38-3 [hereafter Second Luckstone Decl.], ¶ 11 (emphasis added); see also id.
(“The USMS does not retain any visitor logs produced by Fannin County.”); id. ¶ 10 (“[T]he
USMS does not maintain in [its] systems any records pertaining to visitor entry at detention
facilities.”). Plaintiff provides no countervailing evidence.
Moreover, “[t]he fact that the Fannin County [Jail is] a USMS contract facility does not
convert its records into records created . . . by USMS.” Buholtz v. U.S. Marshals Serv., 233
F. Supp. 3d 113, 116 (D.D.C. 2017). Defendant did not exercise the degree of supervision or
control over the requested records necessary for the court to conclude that Fannin County Jail acted
on behalf of Defendant in creating the records. See Second Luckstone Decl. ¶ 10 (“USMS does
not own or operate any detention facilities (to include the detention facility in Fannin County), and
does not own any facilities’ record keeping systems.”); id. ¶ 12 (“[E]ach facility with whom the
USMS contracts to house USMS prisoners is bound by its own appropriate state and/or local
records retention rules and control.”); cf. Burka v. U.S. Dep’t of Health & Hum. Servs., 87 F.3d
508, 515 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (holding that outside firms acted on behalf of a federal agency in creating
data tapes when the agency exercised “extensive supervision and control” over data collection and
Nor can Plaintiff point to the presence of any factors that would establish Defendant’s
control over the records at the time of his request. See Burka, 87 F.3d at 515 (quoting Tax Analysts
v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 845 F.2d 1060, 1069 (D.C. Cir. 1988), aff’d on other grounds, 492 U.S.
136 (1989), and instructing courts to consider four factors in determining whether an agency
exercises sufficient control over a document to make it an “agency record”: “(1) the intent of the
document’s creator to retain or relinquish control over the records; (2) the ability of the agency to
use and dispose of the record as it sees fit; (3) the extent to which agency personnel have read or
relied upon the document; and (4) the degree to which the document was integrated into the
agency’s record system or files.”).
Plaintiff offers two responses. First, he contends that Defendant should have requested
that the records be forwarded from Fannin County Jail. Pl.’s Reply to Def.’s Second Mot. for
Summ. J., ECF No. 41 [hereinafter Pl.’s Reply], at 2. But FOIA “imposes no obligation to compile
or procure a record in response to a request.” Kissinger v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of
the Press, 445 U.S. 136, 151 (1980) (quoting Attorney General’s Memorandum on the Public
Information Section of the Administrative Procedure Act 23–24 (June 1967), Source Book I, pp.
222–23). Second, he asserts that by maintaining custody of federal prisoners by way of an
Intergovernmental Service Agreement, Fannin County Jail is performing a federal function, and
thus should be treated as an arm of the USMS. See Pl.’s Reply at 3 (citing United States v. Luedtke,
771 F.3d 453 (8th Cir. 2014)). Luedtke, however, was premised on the application of a criminal
statute, 18 U.S.C. § 111, that has no bearing on the present case. See Luedtke, 771 F.3d at 454–55.
As noted above, Burka outlines the two criteria to qualify as an “agency record,” and neither exists
Because there is no genuine dispute that the legal visitation records sought by Plaintiff are
not “agency records” for the purposes of FOIA, the court grants Defendant’s motion as to those
As for the segregability of the voluntarily produced records, Defendant has met its
obligations under FOIA. 1 Ms. Luckstone attests that “[a] line-by-line review was conducted to
identify information exempt from disclosure or for which a discretionary waiver of exemption
could be applied,” and that “[a]ll segregable information has been released to Plaintiff.” Second
Luckstone Decl. ¶ 25. Such an affirmation, undisputed by Plaintiff, satisfies Defendant’s burden.
See Porup v. CIA, No. 20-5144, 2021 WL 2021615, at *11 (D.C. Cir. May 21, 2021). Accordingly,
the court grants Defendant’s motion as to the voluntarily produced records.
For the foregoing reasons, the court grants Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment,
ECF No. 38. A separate final order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
Dated: June 7, 2021
Amit P. Mehta
United States District Court Judge
It remains unclear to the court whether withholding information within voluntarily produced but otherwise nonresponsive records to a request is subject to challenge under FOIA. For present purposes, the court assumes that it is.
Plaintiff does not challenge any of the information withheld under Exemptions (b)(6), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(E), and
(b)(7)(F), and so the court treats those withholdings as conceded. Although Plaintiff does not contest segregability,
the court nevertheless must consider the question sua sponte. See Johnson v. Exec. Off. for U.S. Att’ys, 310 F.3d 771,
776 (D.C. Cir. 2002).
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