United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
WILLIAM A. WHITE, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, UNITED STATES MARSHALS SERVICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS and BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS, AND EXPLOSIVES, Defendants. Subject
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the defendant Department of
Justice's (“DOJ”) motions for partial summary
judgment on plaintiff William A. White's claims that the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
(“ATF”), the Federal Bureau of Prisons
(“BOP”) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations
(“FBI”) did not respond properly to some of his
requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (Docs. 38 &
50). White has responded to the respective motions (Docs. 43
& 54). The DOJ has replied to one of White's
responses (Docs. 48), and White has replied to that reply
(Doc. 52). The Court also considers White's motion for
sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c) and 28
U.S.C. § 1927 based on the statements in the DOJ's
first summary judgment motion (Doc. 46). The DOJ has
responded to the motion (Doc. 49), and White has replied to
that response, withdrawing some of the bases for his
sanctions request (Doc. 53).
preliminary matter, White includes with his response to the
DOJ's first summary judgment motion a request for summary
judgment on the same claims and others. The Court declines to
consider White's response (Doc. 43) as a freestanding
motion for summary judgment. Including more than one type of
filing in a single document is not usually accepted by the
Court because, as in this case, it is confusing.
Additionally, construing a request in a responsive filing as
a new motion threatens to open up briefing ad
infinitum because each new request could commence a
parade of sur-reply briefs disguised as regular responses.
Here, the DOJ clearly did not view White's request for
summary judgment as a separate motion, so it responded in a
cursory fashion more akin to a reply brief without discussion
or citation to evidence that would be appropriate in a
response to a summary judgment motion. White's reply -
really a sur-reply not permitted by the Court under Local
Rule 7.1(c) - is equally devoid of material appropriate to
summary judgment. For these reasons, the Court declines to
consider White's response as a summary judgment motion
and directs the Clerk of Court to terminate it (Doc. 43). The
Court will allow White an additional brief period to file a
motion for summary judgment on the merits to advance his
arguments with respect to the claims involving the ATF and
Court now turns to the substance of the summary judgment
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment must be granted “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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels
Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000).
The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986);
Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir.
2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.
initial summary judgment burden of production is on the
moving party to show the Court that there is no reason to
have a trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323;
Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir.
2013). Where the non-moving party carries the burden of proof
at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of
production in one of two ways. It may present evidence that
affirmatively negates an essential element of the non-moving
party's case, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A),
or it may point to an absence of evidence to support an
essential element of the non-moving party's case without
actually submitting any evidence, see Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(c)(1)(B). Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25;
Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1169. Where the moving party
fails to meet its strict burden, a court cannot enter summary
judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party
fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion.
Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).
responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party
may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the
pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a
genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322-26; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57;
Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1168. A genuine issue of
material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of
“some alleged factual dispute between the parties,
” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by “some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material
fact exists only if “a fair-minded jury could return a
verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence
presented.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
brings this lawsuit under FOIA, which the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals recently described generally:
“The basic purpose of FOIA is to ensure an informed
citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society,
needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors
accountable to the governed.” NLRB v. Robbins Tire
& Rubber Co., 437 U.S. 214, 242, 98 S.Ct. 2311, 57
L.Ed.2d 159 (1978). Toward that end, FOIA provides that
agencies “shall make ... records promptly available to
any person” who submits a request that “(i)
reasonably describes such records and (ii) is made in
accordance with [the agency's] published rules.” 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A). The Act is “broadly
conceived, ” and its “basic policy” is in
favor of disclosure. Robbins Tire, 437 U.S. at 220,
98 S.Ct. 2311. Agencies are, however, permitted to withhold
records under nine statutory exemptions and three special
exclusions for law-enforcement records. See 5 U.S.C.
Rubman v. United States Citizenship & Immigration
Servs., 800 F.3d 381, 386 (7th Cir. 2015).
challenges under FOIA fall into three categories:
• the agency “administratively defaulted”
because it failed to respond to his requests at all, failed
to respond within the time periods set forth in FOIA, or
exceeded the permitted requests for clarification from the
• the agency incorrectly denied having responsive
• the agency improperly withheld responsive records
pursuant to two statutory exemptions regarding invasion of
DOJ's summary judgment arguments likewise fall into three
• White failed to exhaust his administrative remedies;
• White failed to state a viable FOIA theory; and
• White has abandoned or conceded certain claims.
Court will discuss each category of arguments and its
application to the facts in turn. With respect to the facts
set forth below, because the Court considers only the
DOJ's summary judgment motions in this order, it has
viewed the evidence and ...