Jenner & Block

The Heart of the Matter Blog

June 6, 2017 Second Circuit Rules in Favor of Firm’s Investigative Journalist Client Seeking DEA Video

A Jenner & Block team secured an important appellate win in a long-running pro bono Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) matter.  

In August 2012, investigative journalist Mattathias Schwartz filed a FOIA request with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seeking video footage of a May 2012 DEA operation in rural Honduras that resulted in the shooting deaths of four Honduran civilians.  The DEA refused to release the video, claiming it was exempt from disclosure under FOIA because it would reveal law enforcement “techniques or procedures.”

In September 2013, a firm team filed suit against the DEA on behalf of Mr. Schwartz, and in January 2016 – after multiple rounds of briefing, two rounds of oral argument, numerous additional submissions, and in camera review of the video – Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment in Mr. Schwartz’s favor and directed the DEA to release the video to him.  The DEA appealed.

On April 6, 2017, Associate Carl N. Wedoff presented oral argument to the Second Circuit, and on June 6, the appellate court affirmed the district court.  It concluded that the alleged law enforcement techniques and procedures DEA relied on to withhold the video (i) are disclosed in publicly available materials, (ii) are not disclosed by the video, or (iii) are not law enforcement techniques or procedures at all, but rather are only the circumstances in which publicly known techniques and procedures were employed.

In addition to Mr. Wedoff, the team consisted of Partner Brian J. Fischer, Associate Brittany R. Lamb and Summer Associate Alexandra Bursak, with help from Law Clerk Nicole Taykhman, Paralegal Amanda E. Factor and New York Office Managing Clerk Na’eem A. Conway.

CATEGORIES: DEA, FOIA request, Mattathias Schwartz, Video

PEOPLE: Brian J. Fischer, Carl N. Wedoff, Brittany R. Lamb