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Court of Appeals Decisions

Sykes v. U.S., No. 11-4005, 2012 WL 5974285 (6th Cir. Nov. 29, 2012) (Stranch, J.). Holding: Affirming the district court's judgment dismissing plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rules of Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The Sixth Circuit states, the "FOIA does not apply to state entities."

Flaherty v. IRS, No. 11-5237, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 11436 (D.C. Cir. June 6, 2012) (per curiam). Holding: Affirming order of the district court dismissing individual defendants from the case and substituting the IRS as the proper party and its finding that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; and denying plaintiff's request to strike defendant's filings. The D.C. Circuit affirms the decision of the district court to dismiss claims brought against individuals and to substitute the IRS as the sole proper party defendant because the FOIA "only authorizes suits against certain executive branch 'agencies,' not individuals."

Taitz v. Ruemmler, No. 11-5306, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 10714 (D.C. Cir. May25, 2012) (per curiam). Holding: Affirming the district court's decision that the White House Counsel's Office is not an "agency" subject to the FOIA. The D.C. Circuit affirms the district court's decision that the White House Counsel's Office is not an "agency" subject to the FOIA and finds that "[c]ontrary to appellant's argument, the Office's status under FOIA does not vary based on the specific records request at issue."

Earle v. Holder, No. 11-5280, 2012 WL 1450574 (D.C. Cir. Apr.20, 2012) (per curiam). Holding: Affirming orders of the district court which dismissed individually-named District of Columbia employee-defendants, and dismissed claims against federal defendants based on plaintiff's failure to state a FOIA claim where he did not allege an improper withholding of agency records. The D.C. Circuit affirms the district court's decision to dismiss FOIA claims against individually-named D.C. government employees, concluding that "the district court properly determined that appellant could not sustain a claim under either the [FOIA] ... or the Privacy Act... because neither creates a cause of action against individuals, only against agencies." Moreover, "[b]ecause the D.C. government is not an 'agency' for purposes of FOIA,... the district court properly declined to substitute the D.C. government for individual D.C. employees."

Wells v. State Att'y Gens. of La., No. 11-30498, 2012 WL 975056 (5th Cir. Mar.22, 2012) (per curiam). Holding: Affirming the judgment of the district court, which dismissed plaintiffs' complaint, including their FOIA claim, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Fifth Circuit concludes that plaintiffs' "argument that the appellees refused to provide copies of investigatory documents in violation of the FOIA fails to state a claim because those federal provisions apply only to documents under the control of federal agencies."

Drake v. Obama, , No. 10-55084, 2011 WL 6415354 (9th Cir. Dec. 22, 2011) (Pregerson, J.). Holding: Affirming the district court's dismissal of FOIA claims brought against individuals on the basis that plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Ninth Circuit affirms the decision of the district court which dismissed plaintiffs' FOIA claims for a failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Ninth Circuit "agree[s] with the District Court that FOIA does not apply to any of the Defendants because they are all individuals, not agencies."

Cooper v. Stewart, No. 11-5061, 2011 WL 6758484 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 15, 2011) (per curiam). Holding: Affirming district court's dismissal of FOIA claims against individual defendants and its grant of summary judgment to DOJ based on the adequacy of defendant's search; and concluding that the Federal Torts Claims Act does not provide a basis for considering plaintiff's FOIA claim. The D.C. Circuit affirms the decision of the district court dismissing "claims against the individual defendants because the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") only authorizes suits against certain executive branch 'agencies,' not individuals."

Watson v. Neighbors Credit Union, No. 09-1464, 2009 WL 3163063 (8th Cir. Oct. 5, 2009) (unpublished disposition) (per curiam). The district court correctly ruled that the federal FOIA only applies to federal agencies, and not to any of the defendants named by plaintiff.

Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. Office of Admin., No. 08-5188, 2009 WL 1373612 (D.C. Cir. May 19, 2009) (Griffith, J.). The court finds that the Office of Administration (OA) is not an agency subject to the FOIA, "because it . . . lacks substantial independent authority." Instead, "everything the Office of Administration does is directly related to the operation and administrative support of the work of the President and his EOP staff." The fact that OA previously considered itself subject to the FOIA "is of no moment because [the court] ha[s] been clear that past views have no bearing on the legal issue whether a unit is, in fact, an agency subject to FOIA."

District Court Decisions

Renfro v. City of Bartlesville, No. 12-CV-208-GKF-PJC, 2012 WL 5996376 (N.D. Okla. Nov. 30, 2012) (Frizzell, J.). Holding: Granting defendant's motion to dismiss.The court rejects plaintiffs' attempts to bring FOIA claims against the city of Bartlesville. It notes that "[a]s recognized by the court in its orders in the individual plaintiffs' cases, FOIA does not apply to municipalities; it applies only to the federal government." Accordingly, the court dismisses the claim.

Hildenbrand v. Fahey, No. 3:12-CV-2959-D, 2012 WL 5844185 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 16, 2012) (Fitzwater, J.). Holding: Granting DOJ's motion for summary judgment and granting motion to dismiss filed by two Assistant United States Attorneys named as parties in the litigation.The court dismisses the case against the two AUSAs named in the case with prejudice under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). It cites prior case law clearly establishing that "[a] FOIA plaintiff may not assert a claim against an individual federal official; the proper defendant is the agency." As the court notes, because neither AUSA "is an agency, the actions against them are dismissed with prejudice."

Hammerlord v. City of San Diego, No. 11-1564, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157740 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2012) (Sammartino, J.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's claim for an alleged violation of FOIA. "Plaintiff's claims under the FOIA against City Defendants and [San Diego Housing Commission] must fail because the statute only applies to federal agencies." "To the extent that Plaintiff argues the [Commission] is a federal agency because it receives federal funds,…this argument is without merit."

ACLU of N.J. v. DOJ, No. 11-2553, 2012 WL 4660515 (D.N.J. Oct. 2, 2012) (Salas, J.). Holding: Granting defendants' motions for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motions for summary judgment. The court declines to decide whether the FBI is a proper defendant. It notes that because "DOJ is already a named defendant…dismissing the FBI has no legal effect."

ACLU of Mich. v. FBI, No. 11-13154, 2012 WL 4513626 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 30, 2012). Holding: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment and denying plaintiff's motion. The court holds that the FBI is a proper defendant. "Based solely on the text of the [Administrative Procedure Act] definition [of agency], the FBI is a proper Defendant because it is an authority of the U.S. government, irrespective of the fact that it is a component of the DOJ." The court finds that "it would be difficult to argue that a 'threat-focused national security and law enforcement organization [that is the] principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Justice and a full member of the U.S. Intelligence Community' is not an authority of the U.S. Government. Second, it notes that the FBI is not one of the entities excluded from the definition of "agency" in the APA.

Hooker v. HHS, No. 11-1276, 2012 WL 3574061 (D.D.C. Aug. 21, 2012) (Jackson, J.). Holding: Denying, in part, defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the adequacy of its search for certain correspondence and ordering the release of additional segregable material withheld under Exemption 6; granting, in part, defendants motion for summary judgment as to adequacy of their search for certain other documents, and their withholdings under Exemptions 5 and 6; treating as conceded withholdings and redactions of four articles under the Copyright Act of 1976, where plaintiff failed to challenge them; and concluding defendants' properly released all reasonably segregable non-exempt information that was withheld pursuant to Exemption 5. The court notes that although "[p]laintiff initially named agency officials from HHS and [the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)] as defendants in this lawsuit," "[t]he only proper defendant in a FOIA action is a federal agency."

Moore v. FBI, No. 11-1067, 2012 WL 3264566 (D.D.C. Aug.13, 2012) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.). Holding: Dismissing complaint against the Executive Office of the President under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6); granting, as conceded, the Criminal Division and U.S. Parole Commission's motions for summary judgment; and granting FBI and CIA's motions for summary judgment based on the adequacy of their searches and the CIA's assertion of the Glomar response in conjunction with Exemptions 1 and 3; and granting BOP and EOUSA's motions for summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The court dismisses the Executive Office of the President as a defendant to this case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), noting that it "is not any agency subject to the FOIA's disclosure requirements."

Jean-Pierre v. BOP, No. 12-78, 2012 WL 3065377 (D.D.C. July 30, 2012) (Huvelle, J.). Holding: Granting BOP's motion to dismiss on grounds that plaintiff failed to state a claim where he did not comply with agency regulations, submit a reasonably described request, and failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The court holds that BOP is a proper party defendant that may be sued in its own name. "Although a small number of decisions hold that only the DOJ, and not its subcomponents, may be sued under FOIA," the court finds that "the weight of authority is that subcomponents of federal executive departments may, at least in some cases, be properly named as FOIA defendants."

Rutland v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc., No. 11-15250, 2012 WL 3060949 (E.D. Mich. July26, 2012) (Cook,J.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's FOIA claim brought against a private corporation. The court grants defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's FOIA claim, concluding that defendant "is not an 'agency' subject to the FOIA, and, therefore, it is not subject to the provisions of this statute." The court finds that plaintiff "has not presented any evidence or an argument that would suggest that [the defendant-company] is a 'government-controlled corporation' or some other entity that falls within the definition of 'agency.'"

Schulze v. FBI, No. 05-180, 2012 WL 2571254 (E.D. Cal. July2, 2012) (Ishii, J.). Holding: Denying without prejudice defendants' motion to dismiss the FBI, DEA and the U.S. Marshals Service as parties to the action. The court denies without prejudice defendants' motion to dismiss the FBI, DEA and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) as parties to this action. Reviewing the case law from the District of Columbia Circuit cited by defendants, the court finds that "there is no jurisdictional impediment to a suit against FBI, DEA or USMS in their own names under FOIA as they are all 'agencies' subject to FOIA within the meaning of section 551(1)." Moreover, the court determines that "where [as here, the] Department is a named party, courts may dismiss Department of Justice component entities where there is no object to the dismissal without impairing the rights of either party." Nevertheless, "[w]hether or not the components are dismissed, the court retains jurisdiction to issue injunctive orders that are binding on the components." Additionally, the court observes that "where [the] Department is a named defendant along with other named components of [the] Department, there is no clear and ambiguous authority for the proposition that the component entities are entitled to dismissal." Accordingly, the court observes that it "can see no reason why it would matter much either way." However, the court grants defendants leave "to amend the motion should new authorities or facts become available."

Kelly v. Judge Advoc.Gen. of the Navy, No. 12-3067, 2012 WL 1997862 (D. Kan. June4, 2012) (Crow,J.). Holding: Granting plaintiff twenty days to submit a partial filing fee, and to show cause as to why this FOIA action should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA claim as brought against individual named defendants. The court notes that "FOIA governs requests made for records of a federal agency." To the extent that plaintiff requested records maintained by state or local entities or their employees, the court finds that such records "are not 'federal government information,' and FOIA does not apply" to them.

Lewis v. FAA, No. 11-1458, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70445 (D. Or. May17, 2012) (Acosta,Mag.). Holding: Granting the FAA's motion to dismiss, with prejudice, claims against individual defendants named in the case and striking their names from the caption. The court dismisses, with prejudice, plaintiff's claims against three FAA employees, noting that "[t]his court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over [plaintiff's] claims against the Individual Defendants, which are based solely on violations of FOIA." The court further notes that "[a]ny attempt to amend the complaint with regard to these claims and the Individual Defendants would be futile."

Moorer-Bey v. BOP, No. 12-212, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55884 (S.D. Ill. Apr.22, 2012) (Murphy,J.). Holding: Dismissing with prejudice claims against BOP employees, including a FOIA claim. The court dismisses with prejudice a FOIA claim asserted against a BOP employee "for allegedly failing to respond to [plaintiff's] inquiries about his FOIA request." The court holds that "FOIA does not create a cause of action for a suit against an individual employee of a federal agency." Additionally, the court notes that "FOIA creates a comprehensive remedial scheme that precludes any claim under Bivens or 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violation of FOIA."

Perales v. Fullerton Pub.Libr., No. 11-1218, 2012 WL 1203489 (D. Del. Apr.10, 2012) (Robinson,J.). Holding: Dismissing pro se plaintiff's complaint as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B) where he does not name a proper party defendant.

Cunningham v. Holder, No. 10-1860, 2012 WL 414685 (D.D.C. Feb.10, 2012) (Boasberg,J.). Holding: Dismissing a federal employee and the United States as parties to the action and substituting DOJ as the proper party defendant; granting EOUSA's motion for summary judgment on the basis that it conducted an adequate search and supported its claims of withholdings under Exemption 3, and concluding plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for public records. The court dismisses claims brought against Attorney General Holder and the United States and substitutes DOJ as the proper party to this action.

Degenes v. Mueller, No. 11-916, 2012 WL 260038 (W.D.Pa. Jan.27, 2012) (Conti,J.). Holding: Granting defendants' motions to dismiss FOIA claims with prejudice brought against state entities and individual federal employees. The court dismisses with prejudice plaintiff's FOIA claim brought against a local police department and state borough because the FOIA "applies only to federal agencies not state entities." Additionally, the court dismisses with prejudice plaintiff's FOIA claims against the FBI director and an agency employee because "individual defendants are not proper parties in FOIA suits."

Voigt v. Muffenbier, No. 11-89, 2012 WL 90486 (D.N.D. Jan.11, 2012) (Viken, J.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's FOIA claim brought against four individuals for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, noting that the FOIA "does not create a private cause of action against individuals but rather allows suit in federal district court against the agency which failed to comply with the disclosure obligations of the Act."

Gagan v. Holder, No. 11-3062, 2011 WL 6216971 (D. Colo. Dec. 14, 2011) (Babcock, J.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's Administrative Procedure Act claim where relief is available under FOIA; dismissing claims brought against individual defendants; and deferring adjudication of the merits of plaintiff's FOIA claim brought against DOJ. The court dismisses claims brought against two individuals because "'FOIA authorizes suit against federal agencies, but does not create a right of action against individual employees of the agency.'"

Jolly v. Town of Randolph Police Dep't, No. 11-11588, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129834 (D.Mass. Nov.9, 2011) (Casper, J.). Holding: Denying, without prejudice, plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis; and ordering plaintiff to show cause as to why this action should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. "Since [plaintiff] seeks the release of records from state entities (a local police department and county prosecutor's office), the Court finds that FOIA does not govern Plaintiff's request." The court orders plaintiff to "show good cause why his action should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction."

Hossein v. City of Southfield, No. 11-12947, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129481 (E.D. Mich. Nov.9, 2011) (O'Meara, J.). Holding: Granting defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The court grants defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's action for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, noting that "Plaintiff has sought to use the FOIA and Privacy Act to obtain information from state agencies and courts, to which the statutes do not apply."

Eckardt v. Clerk of Cir. Ct. of Tenth Judicial Circuit of Ill., No. 11-CV-1243, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124452 (C.D. Ill. Oct. 27, 2011) (Mihm, J.). Holding: Adopting magistrate's recommendation, and dismissing plaintiff's FOIA claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Adopting the magistrate's recommendation, the court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA claim brought against a state employee for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court finds that "a suit against the Clerk of the Court of Tazewell County cannot proceed under the Federal Freedom of Information Act... because the statute is inapplicable to an Illinois state agency and its officer" and "the Clerk is not an 'agency' for purposes of the Federal FOIA."

Taitz v. Ruemmler, No. 11-1421, 2011 WL 4916936 (D.D.C. Oct. 17, 2011) (Lamberth,J.). Holding: Granting defendant's motion to dismiss; and dismissing plaintiff's suit with prejudice because the White House Counsel's Office is not subject to the FOIA. The court grants defendant's motion to dismiss on the basis that the "FOIA does not apply to the White House Counsel's office." The court notes that "while the textual definition of 'agency' contained in 5 U.S.C. §552(f) is seemingly broad enough to cover any Executive agency, the Supreme Court has long held that the President's personal staff and advisors are not 'agencies' subject to FOIA requests." The court finds that "[t]he White House Counsel's Office is one such office that is not subject to FOIA, because the Office's sole responsibility is to render legal advice to the President." The court rejects plaintiff's argument that defendant's predecessor's participation in a press conference in which he announced the release of and intent to safeguard the birth certificate for the President demonstrated "sufficient independent authority from the President to warrant agency treatment under FOIA." Rather, the court maintains that "[t]here is no reason to believe that the Office of the White House Counsel's involvement in the release and continued retention of the birth certificate is independent in any sense or outside the traditional auspices of the office."

Hajro v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., No. 08-1350, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117964 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 12, 2011) (Grewal,Mag.). Holding: Dismissing FOIA claims brought against individual defendants; holding that party who did not submit FOIA request at issue has standing to assert a "pattern or practice" claim under FOIA; granting declaratory relief that defendant engaged in pattern or practice of failing to abide by FOIA; granting plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief; concluding that defendant is required to release certain non-exempt information previously withheld pursuant to Exemption 5; concluding defendant's FOIA processing policy violates a previous settlement agreement as well as the terms of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the FOIA; dismissing a claim brought under APA; and granting partial summary judgment to defendants on plaintiffs' equal protection claims. The court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA claims brought against individuals, noting that "[i]n actions arising under FOIA, the proper defendant is . . . the federal agency, not the individual employees of that agency." The court also notes that "Plaintiffs have offered no case law in support of their claim that as a matter of law a pattern and practice challenge under FOIA should be treated differently than a typical FOIA case." Accordingly, the court finds that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), "the sole agency named by Plaintiffs as responsible for the FOIA violations," "is the proper defendant."

Hajro v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., No. 08-1350, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117964 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 12, 2011) (Grewal,Mag.). Holding: Dismissing FOIA claims brought against individual defendants; holding that party who did not submit FOIA request at issue has standing to assert a "pattern or practice" claim under FOIA; granting declaratory relief that defendant engaged in pattern or practice of failing to abide by FOIA; granting plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief; concluding that defendant is required to release certain non-exempt information previously withheld pursuant to Exemption 5; concluding defendant's FOIA processing policy violates a previous settlement agreement as well as the terms of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the FOIA; dismissing a claim brought under APA; and granting partial summary judgment to defendants on plaintiffs' equal protection claims. The court finds an immigration attorney who did not submit the instant request, but has made requests to USCIS on behalf of his clients over the years "has standing to assert his pattern or practice claims under FOIA." The court finds that "[t]he fact that [this individual] continues to work as an immigration attorney who sometimes needs to request copies of his client's alien registration files pursuant to FOIA is as sufficient now as it was over twenty years ago when he first filed suit against INS to seek enforcement of FOIA's timing requirements."

Earle v. Holder, No. 10-0422, 2011 WL 4500827 (D.D.C. Sept. 28, 2011) (Friedman,J.). Holding: Granting defendant's motion to dismiss, under Rule 12(b)(6), plaintiff's FOIA and Privacy Act claims brought against two District of Columbia employees. The court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA and Privacy Act claims brought against two individuals employed by the District of Columbia. The court notes that "[b]oth the FOIA and Privacy Act concern the obligations of federal agencies." Moreover, "individuals are not subject to suit under either the FOIA or the Privacy Act."

Smith v. Cnty.of Alameda, No. 11-2651, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101607 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2011) (Davilla,J.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's FOIA claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Noting that FOIA "does not include state agencies," the court finds that "Plaintiff fails to state a cause of action under the FOIA against the County of Alameda, or departments under its authority, as a state agency."

Thome v. FDA, No. 11-676, 2011 WL 3206910 (N.D. Cal. July 27, 2011) (Grewal, Mag.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's claims with prejudice due to his lack of standing to bring this action; but noting that a third party requester may pursue his FOIA claims in a separate lawsuit. The court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA claims with prejudice based on his lack of standing to bring the instant action. Here, the court finds that plaintiff "was not identified in any of the FOIA requests" submitted by a third party and that the requester did not indicate in the body of any of the requests "that he made the request on behalf of the class [action lawsuit] plaintiffs or [plaintiff in the instant action] specifically." Accordingly, the court finds that the third party "is the only person who has made a formal FOIA request within the meaning of the FOIA statute." The court also denies plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to add the third party requester as a plaintiff. The court concludes that "[n]either [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 15, Rule 17, nor Rule 21 provide a mechanism by which [plaintiff] can remedy his lack of standing to file the original complaint or to add [the third party requester to his first amended complaint]." As such, the court determines that "[p]laintiffs have failed to meet their burden to show that jurisdiction is proper." The court notes, however, that the third party requester "may pursue his claims under FOIA in a new lawsuit."

Flaherty v. President of the United States, No. 11-124, 2011 WL 2715082 (D.D.C. July 13, 2011) (Walton, J.). Holding: Granting motion to dismiss claims against all parties except IRS; and granting IRS's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The court dismisses claims brought against individuals because "they cannot be parties to a suit brought pursuant to the FOIA" and then substitutes the IRS as the sole defendant.

Elec. Priv. Info. Ctr. v. NSA, No. 10-196, 2011 WL 2650206 (D.D.C. July 7, 2011) (Howell,J.). Holding: Granting defendants' partial motion to dismiss NSC as defendant and plaintiff's Administrative Procedure Act claim. The court grants defendants' partial motion to dismiss the NSC from this action, concluding that the D.C. Circuit's holding in Armstrong v. Executive Office of the President, that the "'NSC is not an agency within the meaning of the FOIA,'" "is binding upon this Court." The court notes that in Armstrong the D.C. Circuit "found that the NSC has a firm structure, making it similar to an agency, but ultimately concluded that because the NSC operates in such close proximity to the President – who chairs it – and does not exercise substantial independent authority, it is 'more like the President's immediate personal staff.'" Accordingly, "[s]ince the D.C. Circuit squarely held in Armstrong that the NSC is not an agency subject to FOIA, the NSC cannot be compelled to respond to a FOIA request." The court rejects plaintiff's argument that because "the NSA 'treat[ed] the NSC as if it were an agency subject to the FOIA'" by referring the FOIA request to it, "this Court should find the NSC subject to FOIA in this case." To the contrary, the court concludes that "[a]n entity that is not subject to FOIA, cannot unilaterally be made subject to the statute by any action of an agency, including referral of a FOIA request," noting that "[i]t would defy logic and well-settled legal norms if an agency could unilaterally expand the scope of FOIA by referring requests to entities beyond FOIA's ambit."

As to plaintiff's argument that "NSA should be held to its representation 'that the NSC would review the request and provide a direct response,'" the court finds that "[t]his argument essentially rests on an equitable estoppel theory," but, except in certain instances which are not in evidence here, "equitable estoppel is not available against the federal government." Lastly, the court dismisses plaintiff's contention that the NSC should be found subject to the FOIA "in order to avoid its FOIA request from being 'toss[ed] . . . down a procedural black hole, with neither [the NSA nor the NSC being] required to disclose an agency record that they both possess." Instead, the court maintains that "[d]ismissing the claim against the NSC . . . does not leave the plaintiff's request stuck in limbo . . . because the plaintiff can still pursue its claim against the NSA for wrongfully withholding an agency record in its possession." The court further notes that "[w]hile the NSC is not subject to FOIA requests, the NSA's referral of the FOIA request to the NSC does not relieve the NSA of its continuing obligation to respond to the request" and "[i]n considering the plaintiff's claims against the NSA, which the defendants have not moved to dismiss, this Court will have an opportunity to evaluate the propriety of the NSA's handling of all documents responsive to the FOIA request, including the document that originated with the NSC."

Mingo v. DOJ, No. 10-1673, 2011 WL 2559221 (D.D.C. June 29, 2011) (Howell,J.). Noting that the issue as to whether components of an agency are proper party defendants for the purposes of the FOIA "is not settled in this Circuit," the court here "grant[s] the motion to dismiss BOP because DOJ is a co-defendant in this action, and Plaintiff has not contested this part of the Defendants' dispositive motion."

Brown v. FBI, No. 10-1292, 2011 WL 2516420 (D.D.C. June 24, 2011) (Lamberth,J.). Holding: Denying as futile plaintiff's motion for leave to amend for all FOIA claims, except one brought against the Tax Division of DOJ; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the basis that he has not demonstrated that he exhausted his administrative remedies; and denying FBI's motion to dismiss. The court denies the FBI's motion to dismiss based on its assertion that it is not a proper party to a FOIA action. The court comments that "[n]o court has found that FOIA does not apply to the FBI, . . . and the fact that the FBI 'has litigated numerous FOIA cases in its own name before the Supreme Court, this court, and other circuit courts, with the DOJ as one of its components appearing as counsel,' . . . also suggests that substitution would be an unnecessary distraction." Accordingly, the court orders the FBI "to produce a Vaughn index" for the documents requested by plaintiff.

Gianello v. Port Authority of NY & NJ, No. 11-3829, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64233 (S.D.N.Y. June 16, 2011) (Koeltl,J.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's complaint. Proper party defendant: The court dismisses the complaint because plaintiff failed to name a federal agency defendant. The court notes that "[t]he Port Authority is a bi-state entity created by compact between the States of New York and New Jersey." Accordingly, "[a]s the defendant is not a federal entity, the plaintiff cannot state a FOIA claim against it."

Venkataram v. Office of Info.Policy, No. 09-6520, 2011 WL 2038735 (D.N.J. May 25, 2011) (Simandle, J.). Holding: Granting defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to an individual government employee named in the complaint as well as for any unexhausted FOIA requests; and ordering defendants to show cause as to why the matter should not be remanded to the agency to process plaintiff's request. The court dismisses complaint against a government employee because "'[a] plaintiff may not assert a FOIA claim against individual federal officials.'"

Larke v. Dep't of Revenue Child Support, No. 10-12148, 2011 WL 1877684 (D. Mass. May17, 2011) (Tauro, J.). Holding: Dismissing plaintiff's claim brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging that an attorney representing a state agency violated the FOIA by failing to release public records upon request. The court determines that "[p]laintiff's §1983 claim against [an attorney who represented a state agency] fails because Plaintiff has failed to allege that [the attorney], acting under color of state law, deprived plaintiff of a federal right." The court finds that even if, as plaintiff alleges, the attorney did not release public records in response to his request, her "conduct could not have violated the FOIA because neither [the state agency] nor [the attorney] is subject to the FOIA." The court concludes that "[t]he FOIA does not apply to state agencies or their employees," but "[r]ather, the FOIA 'applies only to federal executive branch agencies.'"

Penn v. DOJ, No. 10-2494, 2011 WL 1627343 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 28, 2011) (Brennan, Mag.). Holding: Denying without prejudice plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint and his request for appointment of counsel. The court denies plaintiff's leave to amend his complaint to add additional state entities without prejudice, but notes that "because the proposed new defendants are not 'agencies' within the meaning of FOIA, it appears amendment to state a FOIA claim against those defendants would be futile."

Godaire v. Napolitano, No. 10-1266, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122237 (D. Conn. Nov. 17, 2010) (Kravitz, J.). The court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA claims against individuals, state entities and private businesses because "FOIA applies only to federal agencies."

Jackson v. Hagerstown Task Force, No. 10-0182, 2010 WL 4286087 (D. Md. Oct. 29, 2010) (Quarles, J.). The court dismisses plaintiff's FOIA claim against a state task force, noting that "[n]one of the defendants works for a federal agency subject to FOIA."

Brown v. DOJ, No. 08-0821, 2010 WL 3398866 (D.D.C. Aug. 30, 2010) (Huvelle, J.). The court dismisses claims against two individuals and an office within DOJ. Plaintiff concedes that "'[the Office of Information Policy] is an improper party to this action'" and the court notes that "'[i]ndividual federal officials are not proper defendants in a FOIA action.'"

Lewis v. DOJ, No. 09-0746, 2010 WL 3271283 (D.D.C. Aug. 19, 2010) (Walton, J.). The court dismisses the District Court for the Middle District of Florida and an individual as defendants to this action.

Richardson v. DOJ, No. 09-1916, 2010 WL 3191796 (D.D.C. Aug. 13, 2010) (Huvelle, J.). The court dismisses two named individuals as parties to the action.

Sanders v. Obama, No. 09-912, 2010 WL 3001514 (D.D.C. Aug. 2, 2010) (Collyer, J.). "The United States Department of Justice, and not its component parts . . . is the sole proper defendant in this action." Additionally, the court dismisses President Obama, and other third parties as defendants to this action since "FOIA only provides for a cause of action based on the actions/inactions of agencies, not individuals."

Lazaridis v. DOJ, No. 09-1177, 2010 WL 2093405 (D.D.C. May 26, 2010) (Collyer, J.). The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children are not federal agencies subject to the FOIA. Neither of these organizations "exericse[s] independent governmental authority."

Brooks v. Legislative Bill Room, No. 10-00379, 2010 WL 2106475 (E.D. Cal. May 25, 2010) (Newman, Mag. J.). The federal FOIA does not apply to state agencies.

In re Walker, No. 05-759, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50747 (D.S.C. May 21, 2010) (Anderson, J.). A federal court is not an "agency" subject to the FOIA.

Pugh v. Nat'l Pers. Record Ctr., No. 10-584, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42864 (E.D. Mo. May 3, 2010) (Sippel, J.). "The National Personnel Record Center is not an 'agency' under [the FOIA]; it is merely a repository of personnel-related records."

Tibbs v. Sebelius, No. 09-773, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42464 (S.D. Ohio Apr. 30, 2010) (Marbley, J.). Defendant Sebelius is not an "agency" under the FOIA, and therefore a FOIA action cannot be maintained against her.

Rojas-Vega v. Cejka, No. 09-2489, 2010 WL 1541369 (S.D. Cal. Apr. 15, 2010) (Benitez, J.). Plaintiff's claims against two individually named defendants are dismissed, as the FOIA presents a right of action only against federal agencies, and not against individuals.

Roum v. Fenty, No. 09-00381, 2010 WL 1049021 (D.D.C. Mar. 22, 2010) (Kennedy, J.). Plaintiff has not made any allegations against the named defendants concerning FOIA requests he claims to have made to several federal agencies, thus his FOIA claims must be dismissed.

Schmidt v. Shah, No. 08-2185, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25539 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2010) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.). Though plaintiff brought suit against defendant in his official capacity as USAID Administrator, "FOIA actions may be brought only against an agency."

Dorsey v. EEOC, No. 09-519, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28714 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 23, 2010) (Benitez, J.). Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed as to defendant Surfer Restaurant and Hotel, because it is not a federal agency subject to the FOIA. Plaintiff will be allowed to maintain his action against defendant EEOC.

Grieco v. Dep't of the Treasury of P.R., No. 09-1859, 2010 WL 623465 (D.P.R. Feb. 22, 2010) (Casellas, J.). The "Court finds that Puerto Rico's Department of Treasury is a state agency," and thus not subject to the federal FOIA.

Lasko v. DOJ, No. 08-1850, 2010 WL 537551 (D.D.C. Feb. 17, 2010) (Friedman, J.). Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed as to various state government officials and agencies, as the FOIA only authorizes claims against federal agencies.

Ullman v. United States, No. 09-3208 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 27, 2010) (Sánchez, J.). A United States Bankruptcy Court is not an "agency" for purposes of the FOIA.

Houston v. Manheim-New York, No. 09-4544, 2010 WL 304513 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 2010) (Yanthis, Mag. J.). Defendants, all of which are private entities, are not subject to the federal FOIA.

Washington v. Propes, No. 09-03050, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4896 (D.S.C. Jan. 21, 2010) (Harwell, J.) (adoption of Magistrate's Report and Recommendation). Proper party defendant/exhaustion: Plaintiff has named a federal court as defendant in this suit, but federal courts are not "agencies" for purposes of the FOIA, and are therefore not subject to it. Moreover, plaintiff has set forth no evidence "that he has even attempted to exhaust his administrative remedies."

Abbott v. Trog, No. 09-00015, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2951 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 14, 2010) (Webber, J.). Defendants are not federal agencies and therefore are not subject to the federal FOIA.

Mambe v. U.S. Dist. Court, No. 10-27, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2550 (D. Md. Jan. 13, 2010) (Nickerson, J.). Federal courts are not "agencies" subject to the FOIA.

Goddard v. Whitmer, No. 09-404, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1067 (E.D. Ky. Jan. 6, 2010) (Hood, J.). Plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed both because he did not exhaust administrative remedies and because federal courts are not subject to the FOIA.

Tyree v. Hope Village, Inc., No. 09-2445, 2009 WL 5173784 (D.D.C. Dec. 30, 2009) (Sullivan, J.). Defendant, a privately run half-way house located in the District of Columbia, "is not an agency subject to either the FOIA or the Privacy Act."

Sheppard v. Stewart, No. 09-2529, 2009 WL 4432575 (D.S.C. Nov. 24, 2009) (Currie, J.). The federal FOIA does not apply to the actions of state agencies.

Prepetit v. Gov't of D.C., No. 09-2183, 2009 WL 4405756 (D.D.C. Nov. 19, 2009) (Friedman, J.). The federal FOIA does not apply to actions of the District of Columbia or its agencies.

United States v. Mosher, No. 07-67, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107227 (W.D. Mich. Nov. 17, 2009) (Maloney, C.J.). Plaintiff's letter to the court seeking records does not constitute a FOIA request, as federal courts are not "agencies" for purposes of the FOIA.

Shield Our Constitutional Rights & Justice v. Hicks, No. 09-0940, 2009 WL 3747199 (D. Md. Nov. 4, 2009) (Chasanow, J.). The federal FOIA does not apply to state agencies.

Barnett v. Obama, No. 09-0082, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101206 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2009) (Carter, J.). All of the defendants in this case are individuals, not federal agencies. Only federal agencies are proper defendants to a FOIA lawsuit.

Trevino-Garcia v. Univ. of Tex. Health Sci. Ctr.-Sch. of Med., No. 09-0572, 2009 WL 3464865 (W.D. Tex. Oct. 19, 2009) (Rodriguez, J.). The federal FOIA does not apply to the actions of state agencies.

Truesdale v. DOJ, No. 08-1862, 2009 WL 3088824 (D.D.C. Sept. 29, 2009) (Friedman, J.). "[T]he FOIA does not permit claims against individual federal officers," but only against federal agencies.

Johnson v. Shawnee County Coroner's Office, No. 09-3161, 2009 WL 2876594 (D. Kan. Sept. 2, 2009) (Crow, J.). "A FOIA complaint is not the means for judicial review of a denial of records requested from a state agency."

Hart v. DOJ, No. 08-2032, 2009 WL 2709404 (D.D.C. Aug. 31, 2009) (Kollar-Kotelly, J.). Only federal agencies, not individual agency employees, are proper party defendants in a FOIA action.

Kroposki v. FAA, No. 08-01519, 2009 WL 2710223 (D. Conn. Aug. 26, 2009) (Thompson, J.). Only federal agencies, not individual agency employees, are proper party defendants in FOIA actions.

Sowe v. State of Md., No. 09-0621, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74990 (D. Md. Aug. 24, 2009) (Quarles, J.). The Maryland State Police is not subject to the federal FOIA.

Covington v. McLeod, No. 08-1220, 2009 WL 2525933 (D.D.C. Aug. 19, 2009) (Bates, J.). Individual government employees are not proper parties to FOIA actions.

Alvanez v. U.S. Dist. Court, No. 09-1939, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67127 (D. Md. July 31, 2009) (Chasanow, J.). "Federal courts are not 'agencies' covered by the Freedom of Information Act."

United States v. Boyce, No. 06-20, 2009 WL 2231475 (W.D.N.C. July 23, 2009) (Thornburg, J.). "Federal courts . . . are expressly excluded from the definition of 'agency' for purposes of FOIA disclosure requirements." Thus, plaintiff cannot make a valid FOIA request to the clerk of this court.

Thelen v. City of Elba, No. 08-1150, 2009 WL 2208161 (D. Minn. July 22, 2009) (Ericksen, J.) (adoption of Magistrate's Report and Recommendation). The federal FOIA does not apply to a city government or to one of its officials.

Thornton-Bey v. Admin.Office of U.S. Courts, No. 09-0958, 2009 WL 1451571 (D.D.C. May 21, 2009) (Collyer, J.). The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts is part of the judicial branch and thus not an agency for purposes of the FOIA.

Thomas v. CUSIP Serv. Bureau, No. 09-0852, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39377 (D.D.C. Apr. 28, 2009) (Bates, J.). Defendant, a private company, is not an "agency" subject to the FOIA.

Training and Outreach
Next Events
April 16, 2014
June 11, 2014
For a full list of upcoming events, visit our Key Dates page.
To access DOJ documents that are posted online by OIP, please visit the FOIA Library.
For government-wide FOIA information including how to make a FOIA request to other federal agencies, please visit FOIA.GOV.
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Melanie Ann Pustay
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(202) 514 - FOIA (3642)
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