Skip to content

Case Detail

[Subscribe to updates]
Case TitleHOUSE v. COURTER
DistrictDistrict of Columbia
CityWashington, DC
Case Number1:2014cv00020
Date Filed2014-01-07
Date Closed2017-03-06
JudgeJudge Randolph D. Moss
PlaintiffERIN DALE HOUSE
Case DescriptionErin House, a state prisoner in Ohio, submitted a FOIA request to the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice for records concerning the authorization for wiretaps on his phone. The agency indicated that any records would be exempt under Exemption 3 (other statutes). House then appealed to the Office of Information Policy. After OIP failed to respond, House filed suit.
Complaint issues: Failure to respond within statutory time limit, Litigation - Recovery of Costs

DefendantKENNETH COURTER Acting Chief, Office of Enforcement Operations, DOJ
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Opinion/Order [22]
FOIA Project Annotation: Dealing with another in a handful of recent prisoner cases requesting wiretap authorization letters and memoranda supporting those requests, Judge Randolph Moss has joined other judges on the D.C. Circuit district court to find the Justice Department properly withheld those records under a combination of Exemption 3 (other statutes) and Exemption 5 (privileges). In this case, Erin House requested the wiretap authorization records pertaining to the wiretapping of a phone involved in his drug trafficking conviction. The Criminal Division denied House's request under Exemption 3, citing Title III, which authorizes wiretaps. After House filed suit, the agency searched its database of archived emails as well and claimed Exemption 5 as another basis for withholding records. Based on the record before the court, Moss found the agency had not yet accounted for a handful of potentially responsive documents. He indicated that "the Court cannot determine on the present record whether additional potentially responsive records exist and, if so, the Department's rationale for omitting them from its Vaughn index or for withholding them." But in all other respects, Moss found the agency had conducted an adequate search and properly invoked the exemptions claimed. House argued that the wiretap authorizations had become public at his trial. Moss pointed out, however, that House's allegations did not "meet his burden of showing that 'the specific information sought by the plaintiff [is] already in the public domain by official disclosure.'" DOJ had invoked the attorney work product privilege as the basis for withholding memos. House argued that some of the records were administrative, but Moss indicated that "this Court, however, has consistently held that these types of materials are covered by Exemption 5 when they are created in anticipation of a specific criminal prosecution and would not have been created in its absence." As in the other similar prisoner cases, House argued he was entitled to emails pertaining to the wiretaps about him under the Privacy Act. But Moss noted that the archived emails did not qualify as a system of records because information was not retrieved by personal identifier.
Issues: Exemption 5 - Privileges - Attorney work-product privilege, Exemption 3 - Statutory prohibition of disclosure
Opinion/Order [38]
FOIA Project Annotation: Judge Randolph Moss has ruled that the Department of Justice has satisfactorily explained its response to Erin House's request for records about wiretaps that involved his phone. House was one of several individuals convicted in the Western District of Pennsylvania as part of a drug investigation who then filed a number of FOIA requests with DOJ for records concerning the authorization of the wiretaps. Moss upheld most of the agency's response to House, but found the agency still had not provided a sufficient explanation of several items. House had complained of a reference to a single phone number when the agency had stated that it requested wiretap authorizations for several phone numbers. Moss noted that "House is correct that the Vaughn index indicates that the July 9, 2009, memorandum references only a single telephone number, but it is evident that the reference is simply a ministerial error. The Court sees no reasonā€"and House does not provide oneā€"why this minor error should call into question the adequacy of the Department's search and response to House's FOIA request." House also complained that his name did not appear in a tracking database of wiretaps. Again, Moss found the agency had adequately addressed House's concern by explaining that House was not the primary target and, as a result, was not listed in the database. He pointed out that "the fact that references to House appear in documents maintained by the Office of Enforcement Operations, but not in the subject field of the tracking system, does not discredit the Department's search, nor has House identified any reason to conclude that the Department has failed to locate all potentially responsive records."
Issues: Search - Detailed description of search
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2014-01-071COMPLAINT against KENNETH COURTER ( Filing fee $ 400, receipt number 4616061513) with Jury Demand filed by ERIN DALE HOUSE. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(rj, ) (Entered: 01/10/2014)
2014-01-07SUMMONS Issued as to KENNETH COURTER, U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General (rj, ) (Entered: 01/10/2014)
2014-02-182RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 01/24/2014., RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. KENNETH COURTER served on 2/3/2014, RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 1/24/2014. ( Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 2/23/2014.) (jf, ) (Entered: 02/21/2014)
2014-02-263ANSWER to 1 Complaint by KENNETH COURTER.(Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 02/26/2014)
2014-05-304NOTICE Concerning Summary Judgment Motion by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 05/30/2014)
2014-08-065NOTICE (Further) Concerning Summary Judgment Motion by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 08/06/2014)
2014-09-266NOTICE (Further) Concerning Two-Business Day Delay in Filing Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 09/26/2014)
2014-09-307MOTION for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1 - Declaration of Peter C. Sprung, # 2 Exhibit A to Exhibit 1, the FOIA Request, # 3 Exhibit B to Exhibit 1, Acknowledgement of Reciept of FOIA Request, # 4 Exhibit C to Exhibit 1, Letter from Plaintiff, # 5 Exhibit D to Exhibit 1, Letter Denying FOIA Request, # 6 Exhibit E - Appeal Letter, # 7 Exhibit F to Exhibit 1, Letter Denying Appeal, # 8 Exhibit G to Exhibit 1, Vaughn Index, # 9 Exhibit H to Exhibit 1, Table of Exemptions Invoked)(Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 09/30/2014)
2014-10-148Order that plaintiff shall to respond to Defendant's 7 Motion for Summary Judgment no later than 30 days from the date of this Order. If plaintiff does not respond by that date, the Court may treat the motion as conceded and enter judgment in favor of the defendant. (Response due by 11/13/2014). Signed by Judge Richard J. Leon on 10/10/2014. (jth) (Entered: 10/14/2014)
2014-11-139MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response as to 7 MOTION for Summary Judgment by ERIN DALE HOUSE (jf, ) (Entered: 11/18/2014)
2014-11-18MINUTE ORDER granting 9 Motion for Extension of Time to File Opposition. It is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. It is further ORDERED that plaintiff shall file his Opposition to defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on or before 1/4/2015. Signed by Judge Richard J. Leon on 11/18/14. (lcrjl2, ) (Entered: 11/18/2014)
2014-11-24Case randomly reassigned to Judge Randolph D. Moss. Judge Richard J. Leon no longer assigned to the case. (gt, ) (Entered: 11/24/2014)
2015-01-1210Memorandum in opposition to re 7 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by ERIN DALE HOUSE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Part 1 of 5, # 2 Exhibit Part 2 of 5, # 3 Exhibit Part 3 of 5, # 4 Exhibit Part 4 of 5, # 5 Exhibit Part 5 of 5, # 6 Text of Proposed Order)(rdj) (Additional attachment(s) added on 4/29/2015: # 7 Exhibit E) (rdj). (Entered: 01/13/2015)
2015-01-2311First MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 7 MOTION for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 01/23/2015)
2015-01-27MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Defendant's First Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to Motion for Summary Judgment 11 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Defendant shall file his reply memorandum in support of motion for summary judgment on or before February 20, 2015. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on January 27, 2015. (lcrdm3, ) (Entered: 01/27/2015)
2015-01-27Set/Reset Deadline: The Defendant shall file his reply memorandum in support of motion for summary judgment on or before 2/20/2015. (kt) (Entered: 01/27/2015)
2015-02-2012EMERGENCY MOTION filed by KENNETH COURTER. (zmm, ) Modified on 4/29/2015 (zrdj). (Entered: 02/20/2015)
2015-02-2013ORDERSigned by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 2/20/2015.(zmm, ) Modified on 4/29/2015 (rdj). (Entered: 02/20/2015)
2015-02-2014Second MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 02/20/2015)
2015-02-25MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Defendant's Second Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply 14 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Defendant shall file a reply in support of his Motion for Summary Judgment 7 on or before March 6, 2015. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on February 25, 2015. (lcrdm3, ) (Entered: 02/25/2015)
2015-02-26Set/Reset Deadline: Defendant shall file a reply in support of his Motion for Summary Judgment 7 on or before 3/6/2015. (kt) (Entered: 02/26/2015)
2015-03-0615MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 03/06/2015)
2015-03-11MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time 15 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Defendant shall file his reply in support of the Motion for Summary Judgment 7 on or before March 19, 2015. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on March 11, 2015. (lcrdm3, ) (Entered: 03/11/2015)
2015-03-11Set/Reset Deadline: Defendant shall file his reply in support of the Motion for Summary Judgment 7 on or before 3/19/2015. (kt) (Entered: 03/11/2015)
2015-03-1916MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 03/19/2015)
2015-03-23MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Further Extension of Time 16 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Defendant shall file his reply in support of the Motion for Summary Judgment 7 on or before March 26, 2015. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on March 23, 2015. (lcrdm3, ) (Entered: 03/23/2015)
2015-03-24Set/Reset Deadline: Defendant shall file his reply in support of the Motion for Summary Judgment 7 on or before 3/26/2015. (kt) (Entered: 03/24/2015)
2015-03-2617MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 7 MOTION for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 03/26/2015)
2015-03-27MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time 17 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Defendant shall file his reply in support of the Motion for Summary Judgment 7 today, March 27, 2015. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on March 27, 2015. (lcrdm3, ) (Entered: 03/27/2015)
2015-03-27Set/Reset Deadline: Defendant shall file his reply in support of the Motion for Summary Judgment 7 today, 3/27/2015. (kt) (Entered: 03/27/2015)
2015-03-2718REPLY to opposition to motion re 7 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by KENNETH COURTER. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A - 2d Sprung Declaration)(Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 03/27/2015)
2015-04-2819MOTION to Partially Unseal Plaintiff's Oppositionto Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 04/28/2015)
2015-04-2920ORDER granting motion to partially unseal Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment 19 . The Clerk is directed to unseal Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment, as well as the exhibits thereto, except that the Clerk shall continue to maintain Exhibit D under seal. The Clerk is further directed to unseal Defendant's emergency motion to place Plaintiff's opposition under seal 12 and the Court's order granting that motion 13 . See Order for details. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on April 29, 2015. (lcrdm3, ) (Entered: 04/29/2015)
2016-06-15MINUTE ORDER: In his opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff argues that the FOIA search was inadequate because Defendant failed to search for his Direct Connect Identity (UFMI) number, searching instead only for his cellular telephone number and his name. Dkt. 10 at 14; see also[7-1] at 6-7 (Sprung Decl. 18). Defendant is directed to file a brief, not to exceed 7 pages, addressing this issue on or before June 27, 2016. Plaintiff may file a response to Defendant's brief, not to exceed 7 pages, on or before July 11, 2016. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 6/15/2016. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 06/15/2016)
2016-06-15Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant is directed to file a brief on or before 6/27/2016; Plaintiff may file a response to Defendant's brief on or before 7/11/2016. (kt) (Entered: 06/15/2016)
2016-06-2721MEMORANDUM by KENNETH COURTER. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A - Third Declaration of Peter Sprung)(Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 06/27/2016)
2016-07-1422MEMORANDUM AND OPINION: The Department's motion for summary judgment 7 is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The Department may filed a renewed motion for summary judgment addressing these outstanding issues on or before August 12, 2016. See document for details. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 7/14/2016. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 07/14/2016)
2016-07-14Set/Reset Deadlines: Department may file a renewed Summary Judgment motion due by 8/12/2016. (dot) (Entered: 07/14/2016)
2016-07-2823Mail Returned as undeliverable; Sent to Erin Dale House; Type of Document Returned: A copy of the Minute Order, filed on 6/15/2016; Resent to new address on 8/2/2016: FCI VICTORVILLE MEDIUM, II, Federal Correctional Institution, P.O. Box 3850, Adelanto, CA 92301. (kt) Modified on 8/2/2016, new address was found on BOP site (kt). (Entered: 07/28/2016)
2016-08-1224First MOTION for Extension of Time to File Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 08/12/2016)
2016-08-15MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time 24 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Defendant shall file its renewed motion for summary judgment on or before August 16, 2016. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 8/15/2016. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 08/15/2016)
2016-08-15Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant shall file its renewed motion for summary judgment on or before 8/16/2016. (kt) (Entered: 08/15/2016)
2016-08-1526NOTICE of Change of Address by ERIN DALE HOUSE (zrdj) (Entered: 08/17/2016)
2016-08-1625Second MOTION for Extension of Time to File Defendant's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 08/16/2016)
2016-08-17MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time 25 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Defendant shall file its renewed motion for summary judgment on or before August 17, 2016. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 8/17/2016. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 08/17/2016)
2016-08-17Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant shall file its renewed motion for summary judgment on or before 8/17/2016. (kt) (Entered: 08/17/2016)
2016-08-1727Supplemental MOTION for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Fourth Declaration of Peter C. Sprung)(Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 08/17/2016)
2016-08-1828FOX/NEAL ORDER: It is hereby ORDERED that House shall respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on or before September 12, 2016. If Plaintiff does not file a response within the time provided, the Court may treat the motion as conceded and enter judgment for Defendant. See document for details. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 8/18/2016. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 08/18/2016)
2016-08-18Set/Reset Deadlines: House shall respond to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on or before 9/12/2016. (kt) (Entered: 08/18/2016)
2016-09-0629MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 27 Supplemental MOTION for Summary Judgment by ERIN DALE HOUSE (Attachments: # 1 Text of Proposed Order)(zrdj) (Entered: 09/08/2016)
2016-09-08MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time 29 , it is hereby ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment 27 is due on or before October 27, 2016. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 9/8/2016. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 09/08/2016)
2016-09-08Set/Reset Deadlines: Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment 27 due by 10/27/2016. (dot) (Entered: 09/09/2016)
2016-09-3030Mail Returned as undeliverable. sent to Erin D. House; Type of Document Returned: Memorandum Opinion and Order; Resent at new address: FCI Victorville Medium II; 13777 Air Expressway Blvd., Victorville, CA 92394. (dot) (Entered: 09/30/2016)
2016-10-2631Mail Returned as undeliverable: Sent to Erin Dale House; Type of Document Returned: A copy of the 22 Memorandum Opinion and Order filed on 7/14/2016; Resent at new address: FCI Victorville Medium II, Inmate Mail/Parcels, P.O. Box 3850, Adelanto, CA 92301. (kt) (Entered: 10/26/2016)
2016-10-2732MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response as to 27 Supplemental MOTION for Summary Judgment by ERIN DALE HOUSE (jf) (Entered: 10/31/2016)
2016-10-31MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time 32 , the motion is hereby GRANTED. It is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment 27 shall be filed on or before December 2, 2016. Additionally, the Clerk of the Court is hereby directed to mail copies of Dkts. 1 , 3 , 7 , 10 , and 18 (with exhibits) to Plaintiff at his address of record. Barring any extraordinary circumstances, the Court will not grant any further extensions of time. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 10/31/2016. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 10/31/2016)
2016-10-31Set/Reset Deadlines: Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment 27 shall be filed on or before 12/2/2016. (kt) (Entered: 10/31/2016)
2016-11-2833Memorandum in opposition to re 27 Supplemental MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by ERIN DALE HOUSE. (zrdj) (Entered: 11/30/2016)
2017-01-11MINUTE ORDER: Defendant is hereby ORDERED to reply to Plaintiff's Opposition 33 on or before January 18, 2017. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 1/11/2017. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 01/11/2017)
2017-01-12Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant to reply to Plaintiff's Opposition 33 on or before 1/18/2017. (kt) (Entered: 01/12/2017)
2017-01-1834First MOTION for Extension of Time to File Defendant's Rely Memornadum in Support of His Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 01/18/2017)
2017-01-19MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of the Motion for Extension of Time to File 34 , the motion is hereby GRANTED. Defendant is hereby ORDERED to file his reply brief in support of his renewed motion for summary judgment on or before February 1, 2017. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 1/19/2017. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 01/19/2017)
2017-01-19Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant shall file his reply in support of his renewed motion for summary judgment by 2/1/2017. (dot) (Entered: 01/23/2017)
2017-02-0135Second MOTION for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply as to 27 Supplemental MOTION for Summary Judgment by KENNETH COURTER (Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 02/01/2017)
2017-02-01MINUTE ORDER: Upon consideration of the Motion for Extension of Time 35 , the motion is hereby GRANTED. Defendant is hereby ORDERED to file his reply brief in support of his renewed motion for summary judgment on or before February 3, 2017. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 2/1/2017. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 02/01/2017)
2017-02-02Set/Reset Deadlines: Defendant is to file his reply brief in support of his renewed motion for summary judgment on or before 2/3/2017. (kt) (Entered: 02/02/2017)
2017-02-0336REPLY to opposition to motion re 27 Supplemental MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by KENNETH COURTER. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A - 5th Sprung Declaration)(Haynes, Fred) (Entered: 02/03/2017)
2017-03-0537ORDER: For the reasons set forth in the Court's Memorandum Opinion, Dkt. 38 , Defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment, Dkt. 27 , is hereby GRANTED. See attached Order. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 3/5/2017. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 03/05/2017)
2017-03-0538MEMORANDUM OPINION for Order 37 . See document for details. Signed by Judge Randolph D. Moss on 3/5/2017. (lcrdm1, ) (Entered: 03/05/2017)
Hide Docket Events
by FOIA Project Staff