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Case TitlePrison Legal News v. United States Attorneys, Executive Office for
DistrictDistrict of Colorado
CityDenver
Case Number1:2008cv01055
Date Filed2008-05-20
Date Closed2009-09-16
JudgeJudge Marcia S. Krieger
PlaintiffPrison Legal News
Case DescriptionPrison Legal News submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for a copy of a videotape concerning the murder of an inmate by his cellmates which was played at the murder trial. The agency denied access to the tape under Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). Prison Legal News filed an administrative appeal. The agency upheld it original decision, and Prison Legal News filed suit.
Complaint issues: Exemption 7(C) - Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUnited States Attorneys, Executive Office for
AppealTenth Circuit 09-1511
AppealTenth Circuit 09-1531
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Complaint attachment 3
Opinion/Order [3]
Opinion/Order [5]
Opinion/Order [16]
Opinion/Order [26]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in Colorado has applied the Supreme Court's holding in National Archives and Records Administration v. Favish, 541 U.S. 157 (2003), to find that family privacy rights of a prisoner who was brutally murdered by his cellmates trump any public interest in access to a video of the aftermath of the prisoner's death and the autopsy photos of the murder. William and Rudy Sablan murdered Joey Jesus Estrella in their shared prison cell in October 1999. Prison Legal News requested the autopsy photos and the surveillance video from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. EOUSA denied the records under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). Prison Legal News argued that there was a public interest in examining the performance of Bureau of Prisons personnel in relation to the murder and speculated that the photos and video might have influenced the government's decision to ask for the death penalty. The court found Prison Legal News' public interest argument unpersuasive, noting that "the public's interest is diminished because the death penalty was not imposed. Under these circumstances a showing of the importance of the public interest and how it ties to the autopsy photographs must be more nuanced and specific." In contrast, "the autopsy photographs show, in detail, the exceptionally heinous nature of Mr. Estrella's injuries. Given the graphic nature of the photographs, public dissemination of these images could impede the family's ability to mourn Mr. Estrella's death in private and achieve emotional closure." The court found the video to be even more graphic and found the privacy interests of Estrella's family outweighed any small public interest in disclosure. The court noted the inherent contradiction in the balance by observing that "the horrendous manner in which the murder occurred which creates a public interest also is the characteristic that most greatly impacts the privacy interest of Mr. Estrella's family." Prison Legal News also argued that the records were in the public domain, based on Cottone v. Reno, 193 F.3d 550 (D.C. Cir. 1999), because they had been introduced at the Sablans' murder trial. The court distinguished Cottone, noting that there the D.C. Circuit had found that there was no value in asserting Exemption 3 (other statutes) to preserve the secrecy of wiretaps when they had been played in public court. Here, the privacy interests were stronger and the public exposure through the trial much more attenuated. The court pointed out that "the public exposure associated with a criminal trial is vastly different from the public exposure that can result from the release of the same information pursuant to FOIA. A trial is of limited duration, and once completed, the evidence presented becomes part of the trial record. This record may never have public exposure, and even under the worst of circumstances´┐Ż"a reversal of a conviction and subsequent retrial´┐Ż"the death scene evidence would have public exposure only for a limited time and a limited purpose. In contrast, the release of death scene material through FOIA is absolute, unrestrained, and perpetual. Once released, the information can be publicly displayed, by multiple persons, in multiple venues, and on multiple occasions. A decedent's family would have no expectation that the exposure would necessarily end."
Issues: Exemption 7(C) - Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records, Exemption 6 - Invasion of privacy
Opinion/Order [46]
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2008-05-201COMPLAINT for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against United States Attorneys, Executive Office for ( Filing fee $ 350, Receipt Number 10060) Summons Issued, filed by Prison Legal News. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Special Assignment Form, # 3 Receipt)(gms, ) (Entered: 05/20/2008)
2008-05-212NOTICE of Entry of Appearance by Ari Reuben Krichiver on behalf of Prison Legal News (Krichiver, Ari) (Entered: 05/21/2008)
2008-05-213ORDER REGARDING CUSTODY OF EXHIBITS AND DEPOSITIONS USED IN EVIDENTIARY HEARINGS AND TRIALS: Any exhibits and depositions used during evidentiary hearings or trials, counsel for the parties shall retrieve the originals of such exhibits and depositions from the Court following the evidentiary hearing or trial, and shall retain same for 60 days beyond the later of the time to appeal or conclusion of any appellate proceedings. The Court will retain its copy of the exhibits for the same time period after which the documents will be destroyed. Signed by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 05/21/08. (mskcd) (Entered: 05/21/2008)
2008-05-214ORDER OF REFERENCE TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND LETTER TO COUNSEL: Referring case to Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix. Signed by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 05/21/08. (mskcd) (Entered: 05/21/2008)
2008-05-215ORDER SETTING RULE 16 HEARING: Hearing set for 8/13/2008 at 04:30 PM in Courtroom A 901 before Judge Marcia S. Krieger. Signed by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 5/21/08. (msksec, ) (Entered: 05/21/2008)
2008-06-036AFFIDAVIT of Ari Krichiver by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Krichiver, Ari) (Entered: 06/03/2008)
2008-06-057Docket Annotation re: 6 Affidavit. This document is a Summons Returned Executed as to USA and Counsel will refile. Text only entry - no document attached (jmp, ) (Entered: 06/05/2008)
2008-06-058SUMMONS Returned Executed upon defendant(s) United States Attorneys, Executive Office for served on 5/29/2008, answer due 7/28/2008. (Krichiver, Ari) (Entered: 06/05/2008)
2008-06-309ANSWER to 1 Complaint, by United States Attorneys, Executive Office for.(Pharo, William) (Entered: 06/30/2008)
2008-06-3010ORDER RESETTING RULE 16 HEARING: Due to a scheduling conflict on the Court's calendar, the Rule 16 Hearing previously set for 8/13/2008 is VACATED and RESET to 8/15/2008 at 01:30 PM before Judge Marcia S. Krieger, by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 6/30/08. (Text Entry Only - No Document Attached)(msksec, ) (Entered: 06/30/2008)
2008-08-1511Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Marcia S. Krieger: Status Conference held on 8/15/2008. (Court Reporter Paul Zuckerman) (mskcd) (Entered: 08/15/2008)
2008-09-0412Joint STATUS REPORT by Plaintiff Prison Legal News, Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (Pharo, William) (Entered: 09/04/2008)
2008-09-0513MOTION to Withdraw as Attorney by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order (PDF Only))(Krichiver, Ari) (Entered: 09/05/2008)
2008-09-0514MEMORANDUM regarding 13 MOTION to Withdraw as Attorney filed by Prison Legal News. Motion is referred to Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 9/5/08. (Text Only Entry - No Document Attached)(msksec, ) (Entered: 09/05/2008)
2008-09-0815MINUTE ORDER granting 13 Plaintiff's Motion to Withdraw as Attorney. Attorney Ari Reuben Krichiver terminated, by Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix on 9/08/08.(jmp, ) (Entered: 09/08/2008)
2008-10-1716ORDER: Records shall be submitted for in camera review by NOVEMBER 21, 2008. Cross-motions for summary judgment shall be filed on NOVEMBER 21, 2008. No reply briefs shall be filed. Signed by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 10/17/08. (msksec, ) (Entered: 10/17/2008)
2008-11-1417NOTICE of Change of Address by Gail Kathryn Johnson (Johnson, Gail) (Entered: 11/14/2008)
2008-11-2118MOTION for Summary Judgment by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A-1 Exhibit List, # 2 Exhibit A-2 FOIA Request, # 3 Exhibit A-3 FOIA Request Response, # 4 Exhibit A-4 Summers Declaration)(Pharo, William) (Entered: 11/21/2008)
2008-11-2119BRIEF in Support re 18 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (Pharo, William) (Entered: 11/21/2008)
2008-11-2120MOTION for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Exhibit 1 Schuster, # 2 Exhibit Exhibit 2 Prendergast, # 3 Exhibit Exhibit 3 Wright)(Johnson, Gail) (Entered: 11/21/2008)
2008-12-0821RESPONSE to Motion re 20 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (Pharo, William) (Entered: 12/08/2008)
2008-12-1122RESPONSE to Motion re 18 MOTION for Summary Judgment and Brief in Support of Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket # 19] filed by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Johnson, Gail) (Entered: 12/11/2008)
2009-01-2723Unopposed MOTION for Leave to File Supplemental Wright Declaration in Support of PLN's 20 Motion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Attachments: # 1 Affidavit Supplemental Wright Declaration, # 2 Exhibit Exhibit 1-A Chicago Tribune Article)(Johnson, Gail) Modified on 1/29/2009 to create linkage (wjc, ). (Entered: 01/27/2009)
2009-01-2824ORDER granting 23 Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Wright Declaration in Support of PLN's Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff Prison Legal News shall file said Affidavit by separate docket entry , by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 1/28/09.TEXT ONLY ENTRY - NO DOCUMENT ATTACHED (msksec, ) (Entered: 01/28/2009)
2009-01-2825AFFIDAVIT re 20 MOTION for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Chigago Tribune Article)(Johnson, Gail) (Entered: 01/28/2009)
2009-09-1626OPINION AND ORDER DIRECTING RELEASE OF SOME REQUESTED INFORMATION AND DENYING RELEASE OF OTHER INFORMATION. Defendant Executive Office for United States Attorneys 18 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Prison Legal Newss 20 Motion for Summary Judgment IS GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Defendant Executive Office shall disclose to Plaintiff Prison Legal News only (i) the portion of the video that does not depict Mr. Estrellas body (Section Two - all portions after time-code 15:52) except it shall electronically or otherwise obscure the video portion showing William Sablan or Rudy Sablans genitalia and (ii) the audio of BOP officials in the remaining portion of the video (Section One - all portions prior to time-code 15:52). This Order having resolved all issues in this case, the Clerk of the Court is directed to close the case, by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 09/16/09.(wjc, ) (Entered: 09/16/2009)
2009-09-3027MOTION for Attorney Fees and Expenses by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Summary of Attorneys Fees and Other Litigation Costs, # 2 Exhibit Declaration Of Gail K. Johnson In Support Of, # 3 Exhibit Declaration Of Ari R. Krichiver In Support Of)(Johnson, Gail) (Entered: 09/30/2009)
2009-10-2028Unopposed MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 27 MOTION for Attorney Fees and Expenses by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Proposed Order)(Pharo, William) (Entered: 10/20/2009)
2009-10-2129ORDER granting 28 Unopposed Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply to Motion for Attorney Fees and Expenses. Extension granted to 11/6/2009. Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 10/21/09.TEXT ONLY ENTRY - NO DOCUMENT ATTACHED (msksec, ) (Entered: 10/21/2009)
2009-11-0630RESPONSE to 27 MOTION for Attorney Fees and Expenses filed by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (Pharo, William) (Entered: 11/06/2009)
2009-11-1331NOTICE OF APPEAL as to 26 Opinion and Order filedby Plaintiff Prison Legal News (Johnson, Gail) Modified on 11/16/2009 to create a link to the order being appealed. (bjrsl, ). (Entered: 11/13/2009)
2009-11-1632LETTER Transmitting Notice of Appeal to all counsel advising of the transmittal of the 31 Notice of Appeal filed by Prison Legal News to the U.S. Court of Appeals. (Retained counsel; Fee paid) (Attachments: # 1 Docket Sheet, # 2 Preliminary Record including Notice of Appeal, # 3 Receipt)(bjrsl, ) (Entered: 11/16/2009)
2009-11-1733USCA Case Number 09-1511 for 31 Notice of Appeal filed by Prison Legal News. (bjrsl, ) (Entered: 11/17/2009)
2009-11-2034REPLY to Response to 27 MOTION for Attorney Fees and Expenses In Support Of Prison Legal Newss filed by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Johnson, Gail) (Entered: 11/20/2009)
2009-11-2035SUPPLEMENT/AMENDMENT to PLN's 27 Motion for Attorney's Fees and Expenses by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Summary of Fees, # 2 Exhibit Declaration of Gail K. Johnson)(Johnson, Gail) Modified on 11/23/2009 to create linkage (wjc, ). (Entered: 11/20/2009)
2009-11-2436NOTICE OF APPEAL as to 26 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment,,,,,,, by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for (Johnson, Michael) (Entered: 11/24/2009)
2009-11-2537LETTER Transmitting Notice of Cross-Appeal to all counsel advising of the transmittal of the 36 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Attorneys, Executive Office for to the U.S. Court of Appeals. (Retained counsel; USA Appeal no fee required) (Attachments: # 1 Docket Sheet, # 2 Preliminary Record including Notice of Cross-Appeal)(bjrsl, ) (Entered: 11/25/2009)
2009-11-3038USCA Case Number 09-1531 for 36 Notice of Cross-Appeal filed by United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (bjrsl, ) (Entered: 11/30/2009)
2009-12-0239TRANSCRIPT ORDER FORM re 31 Notice of Appeal by Plaintiff Prison Legal News (Johnson, Gail) (Entered: 12/02/2009)
2009-12-1140RESPONSE to 35 Supplement/Amendment, to Prison Legal News's Motion for Attorneys Fees and Expenses by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for. (Prose, Susan) (Entered: 12/11/2009)
2009-12-1441TRANSCRIPT ORDER FORM re 36 Notice of Appeal by Defendant United States Attorneys, Executive Office for (Johnson, Michael) (Entered: 12/14/2009)
2009-12-1542LETTER TO USCA and all counsel certifying the record is complete as to 36 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Attorneys, Executive Office for, 31 Notice of Appeal filed by Prison Legal News. ( Appeal No. 09-1511 & 09-1531) (bjrsl, ) (Entered: 12/15/2009)
2009-12-1843REPLY in Support of 35 Supplement to 27 MOTION for Attorney Fees and Expenses filed by Plaintiff Prison Legal News. (Johnson, Gail) Modified on 12/21/2009 to create linkage and clarify the text as to the actual title of the document(gms, ). (Entered: 12/18/2009)
2009-12-2144Docket Annotation re: 43 Reply to Response to Motion. This docket entry was modified to create linkage and clarify the text as to the actual title of the document. Text only entry - no document attached (gms, ) (Entered: 12/21/2009)
2010-05-0345MANDATE of USCA as to 36 Notice of Appeal filed by United States Attorneys, Executive Office: The motion to voluntarily dismiss the appeal is granted. The entry of this order does not affect appeal no. 09-1511. (USCA Case No. 09-1531) (Attachments: # 1 USCA Order)(bjrsl, ) (Entered: 05/03/2010)
2010-08-1046Opinion and ORDER granting in part 27 Motion for Attorney Fees. Defendant Executive Office shall pay $13,779.20 in attorney fees to plaintiff, by Judge Marcia S. Krieger on 8/10/10.(gmssl, ) (Entered: 08/11/2010)
2011-01-1147USCA Opinion and Judgment as to 31 Notice of Appeal filed by Prison Legal News : The judgment of the district court is affirmed in part and dismissed in part. (USCA Case No. 09-1511) (This document is not the Mandate) (Attachments: # 1 USCA Judgment)(bjrsl, ) (Entered: 01/11/2011)
2011-03-2448MANDATE of USCA as to 47 USCA Order/Opinion/Judgment, 31 Notice of Appeal filed by Prison Legal News: Affirmed/Dismissed (USCA Case No. 09-1511) (bjrsl, ) (Entered: 03/25/2011)
2011-07-0649Letter from U.S. Court of Appeals regarding Petition for Writ of Certiorari which was filed re 31 Notice of Appeal by Prison Legal News; assigned Supreme Court No. 10-1510 ( Appeal No. 09-1511) (bjrsl, ) (Entered: 07/07/2011)
2011-10-2450Letter from U.S. Court of Appeals regarding Petition for Writ of Certiorari which was denied re 31 Notice of Appeal by Prison Legal News; assigned Supreme Court No. 10-1510 ( Appeal No. 09-1511) (bjrsl, ) (Entered: 10/25/2011)
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by FOIA Project Staff