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Roark v. United States

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 4, 2015

DIANE ROARK, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. McSHANE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Diane Roark brings this motion under Fed. R. Crim. Proc. 41(g), seeking the return of certain property seized in 2007 by government agents. Defendant United States filed a motion for summary judgment, and Roark filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the government's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 79, is GRANTED, and Roark's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.[1]

BACKGROUND

In an earlier order on this case, [2] Judge Aiken provided a detailed recitation of the underlying facts, which I incorporate here. The lengthy history of this case originates from the government's allegedly wrongful actions pursuant to its investigation into leaked confidential government information. Following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, President Bush established the Terrorist Surveillance Program ("TSP"), which authorized the National Security Agency ("NSA") to intercept international communications of persons linked to Al Qaeda or related terrorist organizations. On December 15, 2005, the New York Times began publishing a series of articles describing a range of alleged NSA activities, including the TSP and warrantless wiretaps. The Baltimore Sun published an article on the same subject.

Shortly after publication of the first New York Times article, the Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") initiated an investigation to ascertain the source or sources that were responsible for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information contained within the article. Roark, a former staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ("HPSCI), was identified as a subject of that investigation.

In February 2007, Roark voluntarily met with the DOJ and FBI for three hours regarding their investigation. Over the course of the interview, Roark answered all of the government's questions, except that she refused to reveal her sources of information on warrantless wiretaps, as well as the details of her discussion with a congressman. At that time, Roark also provided an affidavit, averring that she was not the source of the classified information in the articles at issue.

In July 2007, the government applied for and obtained warrants from the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Maryland and Oregon to search plaintiffs personal residence for evidence related to the investigation. On July 26, 2007, FBI agents executed the search warrant and confiscated a number of items, including computers, hard drives, other electronic items, and various documents from Roark's home in Stayton, Oregon.

In December 2009, DOJ prosecutors alleged that Roark perjured herself during their February 2007 interview and offered her a plea bargain. Roark refused their offer. Thereafter, plaintiff was neither threatened with further charges nor did she receive notice that she was no longer a target of the investigation. Three individuals subsequently admitted to being the sources of the leaked information; none of them have been prosecuted.

In November 2011, plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland under Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g), seeking the return of property seized from her residence in July 2007. Plaintiff was ultimately dismissed from that action for improper venue. See Wiebe v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 2012 WL 1670046, *1-2 (D. Md. May 11, 2012). Accordingly, on July 26, 2012, Roark filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, alleging constitutional, equitable, and whistleblower retaliation claims, as well as a return of property claim pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g). After commencing her lawsuit in this District, Roark received confirmation from the government that no criminal charges would be filed against her arising out of the investigation or the July 2007 search of her residence.

On November 13, 2012, the government moved to dismiss Roark's complaint, except for her return of property claim. On March 12, 2013, Judge Aiken granted Roark's request for voluntary withdrawal of all claims except for the Rule 41(g) motion. On July 8, 2013, the matter was reassigned to me.

STANDARDS

The court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is "genuine" if a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Rivera v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1146 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A fact is "material" if it could affect the outcome of the case. Id. The court reviews evidence and draws inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Miller v. Glenn Miller Prods., Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 988 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999)). When the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must present "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

DISCUSSION

"A person aggrieved... by the deprivation of property may move for the property's return." Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g). The burden of proof on a Rule 41(g) motion depends on when the plaintiff files the motion. "When a motion for return of property is made before an indictment is filed (but a criminal investigation is pending), the movant bears the burden of proving both that the [property's] seizure was illegal and that he or she is entitled to lawful possession of the property." United States v. Gladding, No. 12-10544, 2014 WL 7399113, at *2 (9th Cir. Dec. 31, 2014) (citation omitted). After the government has abandoned its investigation, the movant "is presumed to have a right to [the property's] return, and the government has the burden of demonstrating that it has a legitimate reason to retain the property." Id. The government can rebut the presumption by proving a "legitimate reason" for retaining the property that is "reasonable under all of the ...


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