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Haley v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 11, 2015

DONOVAN L. HALEY, Plaintiff
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.

Donovan L. Haley ("Haley") is an inmate housed in Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California. On December 3, 2014, the court received for filing his complaint against the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). ECF No. 1. Haley claims that SSA has failed to properly respond to his Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") requests for documents and seeks review in this court pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B), which provides a remedy under the FOIA for the filing of a complaint to enjoin a federal agency from improperly withholding records. Id.

Pending are defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment and Haley's opposition. ECF Nos. 10 & 12. The court will dispense with a hearing. See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, the court will, by separate Order, GRANT defendant's dispositive motion.

Background

Haley previously filed a case in this court regarding SSA's failure to provide requested records, which was dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Haley v. Social Security Administration, Civil Action No. RWT-12-3086 (D. Md.).

In the instant case, plaintiff indicates that on March 31, 2014, he requested a copy of his individual records pursuant to FOIA and the Privacy Act[1] by mailing his request to the "office of the Custodian of Records/Information, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD XXXXX-XXXX." ECF No. 1-1. Haley requested records from January 1, 1998, to January 1, 2004, including (a) any and all records/information/files related to requester; and (b) any and all records/information/files related to requestor being found eligible for supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"); complete amounts of payouts under SSI; amount owed under SSI; and determination for eligibility information, including statements, notes, and records of doctors. Id.

Plaintiff indicates that he mailed a second request for the same documents on June 16, 2014, to "information and Records Office, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD XXXXX-XXXX." ECF No. 1-2. In this request, plaintiff indicated he was "mentally disabled patient" in an outpatient program at Mule Creek State Prison. Id., p. 3

Plaintiff states that he has not been provided the requested records. He seeks disclosure of the records and monetary damages. ECF No. 1.

Defendant indicates that plaintiff's requests were not in accordance with regulations regarding FOIA and Privacy Act requests submitted to SSA and, as such, plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies under FOIA or the Privacy Act. Additionally, Defendant indicates that it has fully complied with its obligations under FOIA and the Privacy Act.

Mary Ann Zimmerman, Acting Deputy Executive Director of the Office of Privacy and Disclosure ("OPD") in the Office of the General Counsel at SSA, avers that as of the date plaintiff instituted this case, OPD had no record of plaintiff properly filing a FOIA request or any administrative appeal. ECF No. 10-2, p. 2. After receiving notice of the lawsuit, OPD inquired with other offices at SSA and learned that the Office of Communication received plaintiff's March 31, 2014, request on or about May 30, 2014. No record of the June 16, 2014, request was discovered. Id.

Because plaintiff's March 31, 2014, request sought access to his own records, SSA processed the request under the Privacy Act. See 20 C.F.R. § 402.15(b). The SSA only considers the request to be made under FOIA if there are requested records that SSA could not release under the Privacy Act. Id. SSA could not respond to plaintiff's first request "for any and all records about himself from January 1, 1998 to January 1, 2004, " as the request failed to reasonably describe the records sought. SSA regulations provide that the agency cannot honor requests for "all records, all information, or similar blanket requests." See 20 C.F.R. § 401.40(c).

As to plaintiff's request for SSI information, SSA performed a search of all records that it reasonably believed may contain information related to plaintiff's request regarding SSI information. ECF No. 10-2, p. 2-3. On February 9, 2015, SSA responded to plaintiff's request and provided all records the agency located that the agency determined were responsive to plaintiff's request regarding SSI information. Id., p. 4.

Standard of Review

A. Motion to ...


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