United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
W. Grimm United States District Judge
Lee Williams Jr. an inmate at the Maury Correctional
Institution in North Carolina, is suing Defendants under the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 and
the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. See
Compl., ECF No. 1. Williams supplemented his complaint at my
direction. See Order; Suppl., ECF No. 6.
incorporate the background of this case as discussed in my
March 18, 2016, Order. In summary, beginning on April 13,
2014, Williams submitted requests to the Department of
Justice (“Justice”) and to the National Archives
and Records Administration (“Archives”) for
records concerning his forbearers who were in slavery in the
United States. See Compl. 2. Williams seeks
injunctive relief and damages. See Id. 4-6. He asks
for “paperwork” to enjoin his continued
enslavement and $1 million dollars for each year his
relatives suffered as slaves. Id. at 4-5. He also
seeks one acre of land for each year his relatives were
forced to turn over their property without due compensation.
Id. at 5. Williams’s records requests and the
responses he received are summarized below.
Records Request of April 13, 2014, to Justice
April 13, 2014, Williams requested records concerning his
“native American Indians/Asiatic African aboriginal
relatives forced into slavery here in the U.S.A. in the 1400s
until the 1900s.” Compl. 2. He also sought documents
pertaining to international human rights. Additionally,
Williams requested “proper citizenship, change of name,
social security, pardon/expungement of criminal records,
reperation [sic] forms and etcetera.” Id.
Williams’s request, however, did not provide names or
other identifying information to focus the scope of his
request and to enable a reasonable search of records.
See Order 1-2.
states the Justice Correspondence Unit of the Civil Rights
Division responded to his FOIA request on May 22, 2014,
stating “[r]equest for information/documents is one
within the jurisdiction of the courts or the state. This
Department has no authority to take any action in the
matter.” Suppl. 6-7. Williams appealed the determination to
Justice’s Office of Information Policy (OIP). See
Id. at 7; June 8, 2014, Appeal, Suppl., Ex. H, ECF No.
6-9. By letter dated September 3, 2014, OIP explained that
“[t]he FOIA does not require agencies to conduct
research for you, to analyze data, to answer questions, or to
create new records in response to a FOIA request.”
Sept. 3, 2014, Denial, Suppl., Ex. K, ECF No. 6-12; see
also Suppl. 7-8. Further, because each federal agency
maintains and processes FOIA requests for its own records and
Williams was requesting historical records, OIP suggested
that he contact Archives. Sept. 3, 2014, Response. Williams
was informed that the OIP decision was administratively
appealable to the Director of the OIP within sixty days.
Records Request of July 3, 2014, to Justice
next wrote to Justice, requesting “documents concerning
reperations [sic] to repair the damages and acts done to Lacy
Lee Williams Jr. forefathers and mothers, placed in slavery
without due compensation for their labor since the
1400’s until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed
in 1862.” Suppl. 3-4; July 3, 2014, Request, Suppl.,
Ex. C, ECF No. 6-4. He asked for forms to collect debts owed
to him from the United States Government for the last 600
years. July 3, 2014, Request.
Records Request of July 5, 2014, to Archives
5, 2014, Williams requested from Archives copies of the
Declaration of Independence, laws related to the slave trade,
and “any and all documents, original or copies of Lacy
Lee Williams, Jr. forefathers and mothers DNA, names and
locations of the plantations where they were slaves since the
1400’s until 1865.” Suppl. 4; July 5, 2014,
Request, Suppl., Ex. D, ECF No. 6-5. He also sought documents
pertaining to the names of overseers, businesses, and profits
associated with his forebears. July 5, 2014, Request.
September 30, 2014, Williams received a letter from Mary
Frances Ronan, in the Archival Operations Section of
Archives. Sept. 30, 2014, Response, Suppl., Ex. M, ECF No.
6-14. The letter reads in part:
This is in response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
request (RD-44356) received in this office on September 25,
2014, requesting copies of “any or all”
unspecified documents relating to the history of slavery,
human rights, citizenship, and your personal relatives going
back to the 1400s.
The Freedom of Information Act (U.S.C. 552) as amended does
not obligate a Federal Agency to perform general research of
the type you requested. Requests must be reasonably specific
in nature, not requiring extensive researching and
identification of documents which may or may not pertain to
your subject. The overwhelming proportion of records in our
custody are [sic] already open and available for research
use, including records pertaining to genealogy. We can
provide information about the records, make them available
for use in our research rooms, and provide specific documents
for a fee. We are not staffed to provide general research
. . .
Our inability to do substantive research for you does not
constitute a denial for the purpose of the Freedom of
Information Act. If you consider this an adverse response,
you may appeal by writing within 35 days of receipt of this
letter to the Deputy Archivist (ND), National Archives at
College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001,
and explain why you think our search does not meet the
requirements of the FOIA.
Id. Williams appealed. See Dec. 22, 2015,
Response, Suppl., Ex. P, ECF 6-17 (noting the letter of
Williams’s appeal was ...