Friday, March 2, 2018

Case of the Day: Dongkuk Int'l, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 204 F.Supp.3d 18 (D.D.C. 2016)


Plaintiff is a Korean national facing criminal trial in Korean courts for a habitual gambling. To prosecute the plaintiff, the Korean prosecutors sent a Request for Assistance (RFA) letter to the U.S. Department of Justice pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). Plaintiff sought to obtain the RFA letter through the Freedom of Information Act, apparently because the contents of the RFA letter contains information that may affect his sentencing. When the U.S. Department of Justice refused, the plaintiff filed the instant action.

The court denied the action. FOIA Exemption 3 permits an agency to withhold a record that is "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute." The court then determined that MLAT is a "statute" within the meaning of FOIA. Because MLAT provides that RFA letters are to be treated as confidential, the court found the RFA letter cannot be subject to a FOIA request.


Always fun to see the interaction between a treaty and domestic statutes. This decision is notable that it applies Medellin v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491 (2008), which held self-executing treaties are equivalent to domestic statutes.

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