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Second Circuit – FOIA: Jabar v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit


Criminal discovery – Burden of proof

Jabar v. U.S. Department of Justice


Judges Cabranes, Nardini, and Rakoff

Background: The plaintiff appealed from the grant of summary judgment to the Department of Justice. He commenced a Freedom of Information Act claim seeking documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation related to himself, speculating that the FBI may have exculpatory information that had not been disclosed during his criminal trial. The FBI issued 21 sets of responsive documents and an index detailing FOIA exemptions under which it withheld other responsive documents.

Ruling: The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that FOIA and the criminal discovery process provide distinct tracks for seeking disclosure from the government. Whether a FOIA action might lead to useful discovery related to a criminal defendant does not change the government’s statutory obligations under FOIA, nor the burden at summary judgment.

Michael Kuzma for the plaintiff-appellant; Daniel Tenny and David L. Peters, assistant attorneys general, for the respondent.