A U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. has ruled that while a federal agency must conduct an adequate search for records when responding to a federal Freedom of Information Act request, the agency is not necessarily required to search every system of records in its possession or contact other agencies that may have information relevant to the request.
Julian White, a Texas dentist, unsuccessfully challenged the adequacy of a search conducted by the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys for court documents from a federal prosecution. White's brother had gone missing after serving as an informant in Louisiana and "helping to put away some felony car theft operators," according to Daniel Stotter, White's attorney.
White believed that information from that prosecution might provide some clues on his brother's whereabouts, Stotter said.
White claimed the agency erred by not searching all of its internal records and failing to seek related information from the FBI that might have helped to uncover responsive records. However, the court rejected White's argument, noting he had not specifically asked the agency to conduct such searches in his FOIA request.
“There is no requirement that an agency search every record system, but the agency must conduct a good faith, reasonable search of those systems of records likely to possess the requested information,” wrote the court.