|Submitted||Aug. 9, 2018|
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To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:
A grievance filed by Judge Steven A. Morley and the National Association of Immigration Judges and the documents referenced in that grievance purport to describe an e-mail from EOIR Director James McHenry following the Attorney General's publication of a decision in Matter of Castro Tum. An unofficial copy of the Grievance is here: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4639659/NAIJ-Grievance-Morley-2018-Unsigned.pdf
On August 8, 2018 the National Association of Immigration Judges and Judge Morley filed a grievance with the EOIR related to the decision to reassign the Matter of Castro Tum case. After the Attorney General reversed the administrative closure decision and remanded this matter, the original Immigration Judge, Steven Morley, set a briefing schedule for the parties to address the issues. However, according to the grievance document, the agency has without explanation or advance notice assigned a new Immigration Judge , ACIJ Deepali Nadkarni, who promptly ordered the respondent, an unaccompanied child, deported in absentia. It is unclear whether the respondent had been notified of the change in IJ or the hearing date. It is also unclear what role ACIJ Jack Weil played in the outcome of Castro Tum after his decision was published. To better understand what has happened, I'm requesting the following:
1. ACIJ Jack Weil's calendar for the days of May 17, 18, and 19, 2018. If the Calendar is maintained in Outlook or a similar calendaring platform, this request should include the notes, attachments, and any other details for each item listed on the calendar.
2. Any correspondence Jack Weil received from anyone at the Attorney General's office, including the Attorney General himself, between May 13 and May 20 mentioning any of these keywords: "Castro Tum," Castro-Tum," "Morley," or "Nadkarni." For e-mail messages, this should include items that were sent directly to him and items on which he was "copied" using the "cc" or "Bcc" fields. This request is explicitly intended to include other forms of correspondence, including paper notes, letters, or memoranda.
3. The written and recorded records related to phone calls McHenry had that involved the Castro-Tum matter between May 17 and May 20, 2018, including: (1) notes taken during the call; (2) audio recordings of such phone calls.
4. In addition to the records requested above, I also request records describing the processing of this request, including records sufficient to identify search terms used and locations and custodians searched and any tracking sheets used to track the processing of this request. If you use FOIA questionnaires or certifications completed by individual custodians or components to determine whether they possess responsive materials or to describe how they conducted searches, I also request any such records prepared in connection with the processing of this request.
To clarify my request, I seek all responsive records regardless of format, medium, or physical characteristics. In conducting the search, please understand the terms “record,” “document,” and “information” in their broadest sense, to include any written, typed, recorded, graphic, printed, or audio material of any kind. We seek records of any kind, including electronic records, audiotapes, videotapes, and photographs, as well as letters, emails, facsimiles, telephone messages, voice mail messages and transcripts, notes, or minutes of any meetings, telephone conversations or discussions. My request includes any attachments to these records, including e-mail attachments. No category of material should be omitted from search, collection, and production.
Please search all records regarding agency business. You may not exclude searches of files or emails in the personal custody of your officials, such as personal email accounts. Records of official business conducted using unofficial systems or stored outside of official files is subject to the Federal Records Act and FOIA. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Office of Sci. & Tech. Policy, 827 F.3d 145, 149–50 (D.C. Cir. 2016); cf. Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Kerry, 844 F.3d 952, 955–56 (D.C. Cir. 2016).
It is not adequate to rely on policies and procedures that require officials to move such information to official systems within a certain period of time; I exercise and specifically preserve and assert my right to records contained in those files even if material has not yet been moved to official systems or if officials have, through negligence or willfulness, failed to meet their obligations. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Office of Sci. & Tech. Policy, No. 14-cv-765, slip op. at 8 (D.D.C. Dec. 12, 2016).
In addition, please note that in conducting a “reasonable search” as required by law, you must employ the most up-to-date technologies and tools available, in addition to searches by individual custodians likely to have responsive information. Recent technology may have rendered DHS’s prior FOIA practices unreasonable. In light of the government-wide requirements to manage information electronically by the end of 2016, it is no longer reasonable to rely exclusively on custodian-driven searches. Presidential Memorandum—Managing Government Records, 76 Fed. Reg. 75,423 (Nov. 28, 2011), https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/28/presidentialmemorandum-managing-government-records; Office of Mgmt. & Budget, Exec. Office of the President, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments & Independent Agencies, “Managing Government Records Directive,” M-12-18 (Aug. 24, 2012), https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/m-12-18.pdf.
Furthermore, agencies that have adopted the National Archives and Records Agency (NARA) Capstone program, or similar policies, now maintain emails in a form that is reasonably likely to be more complete than individual custodians’ files. For example, a custodian may have deleted a responsive email from his or her email program, but DHS’s archiving tools would capture that email under Capstone. Accordingly, I insist that the USCIS use the most up-to-date technologies to search for responsive information and take steps to ensure that the most complete repositories of information are searched. I am available to work with you to craft appropriate search terms.
If it is your position that any portion of the requested records is exempt from disclosure, I request that you provide an index of those documents as required under Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1974). The index must describe each document claimed as exempt with sufficient specificity “to permit a reasoned judgment as to whether the material is actually exempt under FOIA.” Founding Church of Scientology v. Bell, 603 F.2d 945, 949 (D.C. Cir. 1979). Moreover, the index “must describe each document or portion thereof withheld, and for each withholding it must discuss the consequences of disclosing the sought-after information.” King v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 830 F.2d 210, 223–24 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Further, “the withholding agency must supply ‘a relatively detailed justification, specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and correlating those claims with the particular part of a withheld document to which they apply.’” Id. at 224 (citing Mead Data Central, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 251 (D.C. Cir. 1977)).
In the event some portions of the requested records are properly exempt from disclosure, please disclose any reasonably segregable non-exempt portions of the requested records. If it is your position that a record contains non-exempt segments, but that those non-exempt segments are so dispersed throughout the document as to make segregation impossible, please state what portion of the document is non-exempt, and how the material is dispersed throughout the document. Mead Data Central, 566 F.2d at 261. Claims of nonsegregability must be made with the same degree of detail as required for claims of exemptions in a Vaughn index. If a request is denied in whole, please state specifically that it is not reasonable to segregate portions of the record for release.
You should institute a preservation hold on information responsive to this request. I intend to pursue all legal avenues to enforce my right of access under the FOIA, including prompt litigation if that becomes necessary. Accordingly, the USCIS is on notice that litigation is reasonably foreseeable. To ensure that this request is properly construed, that searches are conducted in an adequate but efficient manner, and that extraneous costs are not incurred, I welcome an opportunity to discuss this request with you before you undertake your search or incur search or duplication costs. By working together at the outset, we can decrease the likelihood of costly and time-consuming litigation in the future. If it will accelerate release of responsive records to me, please also provide responsive material on a rolling basis.
Fee Waiver Request:
In accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k), I request a waiver of fees associated with processing this request for records. The subject of this request concerns the operations of the federal government, and the disclosures will likely contribute to a better understanding of relevant government procedures by the general public in a significant way. 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(i).
Moreover, the request is entirely and fundamentally for non-commercial purposes. 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(ii).
I request a waiver of fees because disclosure of the requested information is “in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.” 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(i); see also 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(2)(i)-(iv). The grievance has already been written about in the news media and is of extreme public interest. https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/qvmeyd/jeff-sessions-wants-to-remove-immigration-judges-who-arent-deporting-people-fast-enough. Similarly, the reassignment of the judge in the Castro Tum matter has been the subject of media attention. https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/07/politics/immigration-judge-replaced-deportation-case-justice-department/index.html, http://thehill.com/latino/399812-retired-judges-protesting-deportation-case-involving-jeff-sessions, https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2018/08/03/immigration-lawyers-view-judge-removal-as-chilling-message-from-doj/?slreturn=20180708115625.
I am also a member of the news media and have written and researched immigration court practice and procedures, including specifically developments in docketing procedures since the change in administration, and I request that all search and production fees be waived due to my news media status. See e.g. https://www.law360.com/articles/1050952/foia-documents-shed-light-on-eoir-case-management (referencing my writing and research on docketing procedure changes); https://www.aila.org/infonet/eoir-foia-response-no-dark-courtrooms-policy (same); https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/scanning-immigrants-old-fingerprints-us-threatens-to-strip-thousands-of-citizenship/2018/06/13/2230d8a2-6f2e-11e8-afd5-778aca903bbe_story.html?utm_term=.c59c400f0ef7 (referencing my research and writing on denaturalization procedures); https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/us-may-strip-citizenship-cheats-of-their-passports-lwt7kddq0 (same); http://www.recorder.com/US-goes-after-naturalized-immigrants-with-criminal-records-18780878 (same). I am quoted in a number of the articles listed above and intend to use the documents and information received in response to this request to share with the public and to write related news articles about immigration enforcement efforts.
Pursuant to 6 CFR § 5.5(e)(1) I am requesting the processing and production of records in response to this request be expedited. In particular, directions from EOIR administrative staff controlling the decisions Immigration Judges are to enter is of extreme importance, because it implicates issues of due process and fair play in all pending removal proceedings. Finally, as outlined above, this is a matter of "widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence." For all such reasons, the agency should expedite its request and produce the requested records at once.
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.
An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.
To Whom It May Concern:
I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information Act request, copied below, and originally submitted on Aug. 9, 2018. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #2018-44539.
Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.
Matthew, attached is response for 2018-44540. Wr/JRS