AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF MAINE FOUNDATION v. US CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES
ORDER AFFIRMING RECOMMENDED DECISION granting 32 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 35 Motion for Summary Judgment; accepting 57 Report and Recommended Decision; accepting 59 Supplemental Report and Recommended Decision. By JUDGE JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. (CCS)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MAINE
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES
UNION OF MAINE FOUNDATION, )
U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND
The United States Magistrate Judge filed with the Court on May 31, 2022 his
Recommended Decision. Report and Recommended Decision on Mot. for Summ. J.
(ECF No. 57) (Recommended Decision). In his Recommended Decision, the United
States Magistrate Judge “directed Defendant to submit documents for an in camera
review” before issuing a supplemental recommendation following the review.
Recommended Decision at 45. On June 6, 2022, the Defendant filed the documents
listed by the Magistrate Judge for an in camera inspection. Def.’s Status Update
Regarding Def.’s In Camera Review (ECF No. 58). On June 30, 2022, following his
in camera review, the Magistrate Judge filed with the Court his Supplemental
Recommended Decision. Suppl. Report and Recommended Decision (ECF No. 59).
On July 14, 2022, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Foundation
(ACLU) filed its objection to the Recommended Decision. Pl.’s Obj. to Recommended
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Decision on Mot. for Summ. J. (ECF No. 60) (Pl.’s Obj.). The U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services filed its response to the Plaintiff’s objection on July 28, 2022.
Def.’s Resp. to Pl.’s Obj. to Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 61) (Def.’s Resp.).
The Defendant did not object to those portions of the Magistrate Judge’s
Recommended Decision and Supplemental Recommended Decision that ordered the
Defendant to make certain disclosures.
The Court reviewed and considered the Magistrate Judge’s Recommended
Decision and his Supplemental Decision, together with the entire record, and the
Court made a de novo determination of all matters adjudicated by the Magistrate
Judge’s Recommended Decision and Supplemental Decision; and the Court concurs
with the recommendations of the United States Magistrate Judge for the reasons
set forth in his Recommended Decision and Supplemental Recommended Decision
and determines that no further proceeding is necessary. The Court writes briefly,
however, to address the ACLU’s objection to the Magistrate Judge’s Recommended
In its July 14, 2022 objection, the ACLU submitted a “limited Objection to the
Magistrate Judge’s May 31, 2022 Recommended Decision,” focusing only on a
“single issue: whether Defendant should be required to search for and produce
notices created by the Boston Asylum Office informing asylum seekers whether
their applications have been denied or referred.”
Pl.’s Obj. at 1.
Magistrate Judge, the parties disagreed whether the denial and referral notices are
“final decisions” and subject to disclosure under the FOIA electronic reading room
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provision at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2)(A).
In his May 31, 2022 Recommended Decision, the Magistrate Judge discussed
this issue and ruled that Congress did not intend “all postdecisional documents to
be construed as ‘final opinions . . . made in the adjudication of cases’ requiring
automatic electronic publishing.” Recommended Decision at 18. The Magistrate
Judge also concluded that because the ACLU failed to plead or exhaust this specific
claim, the ACLU could not pursue it. Id. at 18-19. Lastly, the Magistrate Judge
found that the Defendant’s decision not to search the so-called A-Files “for the
denial and referral notices was reasonable and that its search was otherwise
adequate.” Id. at 19.
In performing its de novo review, the Court considered the ACLU’s objection
to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that the Defendant should not be
“required to search for and produce notices created by the Boston Asylum Office
informing asylum seekers whether their applications have been denied or referred.”
Pl.’s Obj. at 1. The Court concludes that the Defendant has the better argument
precisely for the reasons the Magistrate Judge described in his May 31, 2022
Recommended Decision. The Court reviewed the contents of the Magistrate Judge’s
Recommended Decision and Supplemental Recommended Decision, together with
the entire record, and has concluded that the Magistrate Judge fully addressed the
objection in his Recommended Decision and, therefore, no further judicial
explanation is necessary.
The Court AFFIRMS the Recommended Decision (ECF No. 57) and the
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Supplemental Recommended Decision (ECF No. 59) of the Magistrate Judge. The
Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 35).
Consistent with this order, the Court ORDERS the
Defendant to disclose:
the information it withheld pursuant to Exemption 6 except for email
addresses, phone numbers, applicant names, addresses, names of
relatives, addresses of relatives, school addresses, dates of significance
related to important events within the applicant’s personal history,
churches attended, and other family and/or personal history, and
the information it withheld pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E) on
pages 4105-11, 4113, 4939-45, 4947, 4319, 4680-83, 5868-69, 5876-77,
5880-81, 5905-07, 5959, 6053, and 6065-67;
In addition, the Court ORDERS the Defendant to disclose Exemption 7(E)
withholdings on pages 4319, 5707, and 5709.
The Court otherwise DENIES
Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32). Finally, the Court
GRANTS the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 35) on all
remaining issues and disputed pages and on the 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E) redactions
on pages 3765, 3940-43, 3944-45, 4669, 4677-79, and 4684-87.
/s/ John A. Woodcock, Jr.
JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 19th day of September, 2022
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