United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
William O'Brien filed suit under the Freedom of
Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552,
and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701,
seeking release of certain records from the Federal Bureau of
Investigations. He filed for summary judgment. Defendant
Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss. For the
reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss will
be granted and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
will be dismissed as moot.
is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence following his
conviction for numerous offenses related to the illegal
distribution of controlled substances from his former medical
practice. See Criminal Action No. 15-cr-21. While
serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution
Hazelton in West Virginia, Plaintiff attempted to acquire
certain records from the FBI's Philadelphia office.
Specifically, he alleges he sent the following request:
• On January 17, 2019, Plaintiff requested “the
release of all FBI: records, statements, or any information
including 302 reports or contact reports. This includes: any
records, statements, or any information including 302 reports
or contact reports, -- of the Health Care Fraud Task Force
(HCFTF) records concerning FBI case # 209-PH-110018 for IN
REFERENCE TO ANGELA RONGIONE TO JANUARY 20, 2015.”
• On February 6, 2019, Plaintiff requested expedited
processing of his January 17 request.
• On February 27, 2019, Plaintiff sent a third letter to
the FBI pertaining to his request.
addressed all three letters to the FBI's Philadelphia
field office at 1600 Arch Street. He did not receive a
response to any of his requests. Defendant contends it did
not receive any of these requests. It also states that the
FBI's field office address is 600 Arch Street, not 1600
Arch Street, the address to which the letter was sent.
complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face'” in order to survive a
motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The allegations must rise above mere
speculation; conclusory statements are insufficient.
Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores Inc., 691 F.3d 527, 542
(3d Cir. 2012) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545).
FOIA case such as this one, “federal jurisdiction is
dependent upon a showing that an agency has (1)
‘improperly'; (2) ‘withheld'; (3)
‘agency records.'” Kissinger v. Reporters
Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 445 U.S. 136, 150
(1980). All three conditions must be met for this court to
have jurisdiction over the instant action.
FBI's duties to disclose documents under FOIA are not
triggered unless it first receives a proper request. The mere
fact that Plaintiff can show he placed his letters in the
mail does not mean he has shown the agency received them.
See Banks v. Lappin, 539 F.Supp.2d 228, 235 (D.D.C.
2008). And indeed, the documents Plaintiff himself provided
make it clear the letters were in fact never actually sent to
the FBI, as they were mailed to the wrong
argues that, because the letters were not sent back to the
return address on the envelope, they must have been delivered
to the FBI. But such an allegation is too speculative.
“Even on a motion to dismiss, we are not required to
credit mere speculation.” Zavala, 691 F.3d at
542. Because Plaintiff did not plausibly allege that a
government agency improperly withheld records from him, this
court is without jurisdiction over his complaint.
Banks, 539 F.Supp.2d at 235 (holding plaintiff did
not have a viable FOIA claim because it could not show agency
received a request); West v. Jackson, 449 F.Supp.2d
207, 211 (D.D.C. 2006), aff'd, 2007 WL 1723362
(D.C. Cir. Mar. 6, 2007) (per curiam) (same).
any event, Defendant has agreed to now accept the letters
Plaintiff attached as a document request and forward them to
its FOIA office for appropriate handling. If Defendant fails
to respond to Plaintiff's request or asserts any
exemptions to its disclosure requirements, then Plaintiff may
return to this court once it exhausts its administrative
remedies, including any administrative appeals it may take.
See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6); McDonnell, 4
F.3d at 1240.Accordingly, Defendant's motion to
dismiss shall be granted and Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment is accordingly moot.