EOIR Staff emails

Matthew Hoppock filed this request with the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review of the United States of America.
Tracking #

2020-21347

Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Appeal

Communications

From: Matthew Hoppock


To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

All Email messages between robert.barry@eoir.usdoj.gov and vicki.butler@eoir.usdoj.gov between 9/13/19 and 10/30/19.

I am asking for all emails messages in the date range without a keyword search. I don’t expect there will be many. I would be happy to discuss the scope of this request or any other issues that may come up if you would like.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Matthew Hoppock

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

Mathew, for us to do a “reasonable search” and do the subsequent privacy vs. public interest analysis, please provide the topical subject matter for search. Wr/JRS

From: Matthew Hoppock

I do not wish to limit the search by keyword. What I am looking for occurred during that date range, but I cannot predict if a specific keyword is going to show up in each of the e-mail messages about this incident. Limiting the search by keyword will likely exclude certain responsive messages.

However, I don't expect there to be more than 20 or so e-mail messages between these two individual during that date range. If you run a search and it turns out there are hundreds, please let me know. I would be glad to work with you to limit the search if there are too many. Please let me know once the search has been run if that is an issue.

Thank you,

Matthew Hoppock

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

Matthew,

Keywords are helpful but not determinative of the search. I just need to know what “incident” you are seeking documentation of. I cannot craft a “reasonable search” for documents without first knowing specifically what records you seek. DOJ regulations state that, “[t]o the extent possible, requesters should include specific information that may assist a component in identifying the requested records, such as the date, title or name, author, recipient, subject matter of the record, case number, file designation, or reference number” and also that “requesters should include as much detail as possible about the specific records or the types of records that they are seeking.” 28 C.F.R. § 16.3(b).

If there are only a few potentially responsive documents, I would like to get this done as I have a number of large projects to work on, including remands for the JLC Forum.

Wr/JRS

From: Matthew Hoppock

I can explain what I’m looking for. I am trying to understand how the agency handled the ninth circuit’s remand of MARIA TORRES VALDIVIA V. WILLIAM BARR, No. 15-73499 (9th Cir. 2019). I understand if the Ninth Circuit the department of justice moved to remand the case back to the agency. However I am aware that after the ninth’s decision was issued, there was a request for the file to be sent to the EOIR Director’s office from the LA immigration court. I am trying to obtain the email messages between the persons most likely involved to figure out why that happened and what the agency is doing to comply with the remand order. That’s why I am seeking the email messages between those two people in that date range. I can’t guarantee their correspondence will mention the person by name or there a number, so searching by keywords might not be sufficient. But, given how rarely those two individuals would normally correspond by email, I doubt there will be any messages in that date range that don’t relate to this specific case. Thank you.

Matthew Hoppock

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

Thank you Matthew, I can search for that. Wr/JRS

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

Matthew, thank you we were able to find the e-mails. Since I just have to redact the one responsive string I should have to you this week. Wr/JRS

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

Matthew, please see FOIA response attached.

Wr/
Joseph R. Schaaf
Supervisory Attorney-Advisor
Executive Office for Immigration Review

From: Matthew Hoppock

Joseph,

Were there other email messages between the two during this time period other than what has been provided?

Also, I am confused by the layout. At the bottom of Page 1 there is the beginning of an email. Is Page 2 a continuation of that email? the text and font change on page 2 which makes it seem like that might be from a different set of emails.

Also, has EOIR withheld any email messages? The determination letter mentions withholdings under B6, but I can't tell if that's just in reference to the redactions or if there are additional records that were withheld.

Thank you.

Matthew Hoppock

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

Matthew, this is the full string between Robert Barry and Vicki Butler on that topic. It is one continuous string. We did not withhold any e-mails. Wr/JRS

From: Matthew Hoppock

Thanks for that. Were there other email messages between the two during this time period other than what has been provided?

Matthew Hoppock

From: Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review

Matthew, the search was tailored to e-mails between Staff Assistant Vicki Butler and Court Administrator Robert Barry (or anyone at LOS for that matter) regarding Valdivia vs. Barr between 9/13/2019 and 10/30/2019. What we found seems to be an exact match. Wr/JRS

From: Matthew Hoppock

The agency did not conduct an adequate search. The request was for all emails between two custodians in a limited time period. The request explicitly said a keyword search was not to be conducted because there should be so few emails and it was likely the custodians were speaking without use of specific key words.

The agency refused to produce them, saying it would only conduct a search if we provided them the "subject matter."

I responded that I did not wish to limit the search by keyword because of the already-limited search terms and the inability to predict if a specific keyword would show up in each of the e-mail messages. I noted limiting the search by keyword would likely exclude certain responsive messages.

The agency responded that it needed to know what "incident" I was asking about. I responded by describing one situation I believed would be illuminated by the emails but also that it was likely they had corresponded about that situation without using any specific keywords. Because the field of emails requested was necessarily small, I asked that it not be conducted using a keyword search.

The agency responded by only producing one string of emails mentioning the situation I had described.

When I asked afterward whether there were other responsive email messages between these two individuals in that time range that didn't include the keywords, the agency said it didn't search for them and instead only searched for keywords on the incident I had mentioned. That is inadequate.

It was unlawful for the agency to refuse to conduct a search until I identified what subject matter I wanted since my search terms were especially limited already. It was also unlawful after we said we didn't want the agency to limit the search to keywords to then use my obviously reluctant response on subject matter to limit the search.

Finally, the production here is inadequate because the first page of emails is so badly degraded it is unreadable. These are agency emails that were in electronic format when I requested them. There is no reason for these email messages to be altered in this way so that we can't read what they say.

I am asking that the processing of this appeal be expedited. Even from the limited, single string of emails we've received it's clear the Director EOIR is specifically interfering in cases that are supposedly before the neutral BIA on remand from a federal court. I am writing a news article on this subject and need the remaining responsive records to complete my reporting.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.

Matthew Hoppock

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