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Scott v. United States Attorney Offices

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 10, 2019

MICHAEL SCOTT, # 311542 Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY OFFICES, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS, and FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT AND PRIVACY STAFF, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending is self-represented Plaintiff Michael Scott's Complaint seeking judicial review of a determination of his request for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. §552. Defendants[1] have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint as moot or unexhausted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). (ECF No. 16). Scott filed an opposition. (ECF No. 18). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Scott, who was convicted of second-degree murder and a related handgun charge following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County Maryland, began service of an aggregate term of 25 years' incarceration on December 2, 2002. See State v. Scott, Criminal Case No. CT01-1594X (Cir. Ct. Prince George's Cty. 2002).[2] He is currently incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, Maryland.

         On March 9, 2018, Scott initiated this action by filing a Complaint seeking the "whole police and prosecutor case file" from a criminal case in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and damages of $5, 000. (ECF No. 1 at p. 3).[3] Scott alleges that Stephen D. Gary, "the state's key witness." testified against him in exchange for a reduction in the drug distribution charges he was facing in United States v. Gary, Case F. 7820-01 (D.C. Sup. Ct). (ECF No. 1 at 2). Scott claims the records he seeks are Brady [4] material not disclosed at trial. Id.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a case. This challenge proceeds "in one of two ways," Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). "First, the defendant may contend 'that [the] complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based.'" Id. (quoting Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). Second, "the defendant can contend...'that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true.'" Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Demetres v. East West Const., Inc., 776 F.3d 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015).

         In a facial challenge, a court will dismiss the complaint "where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction." Davis, 367 F.Supp.2d at 799. Where the challenge is factual, "the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter jurisdiction." Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. "[T]he court may look beyond the pleadings and 'the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists."' Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D, Md. 2003) (citation omitted). The court "may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Velasco v. Gov't of Indon., 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant argues that Scott's claims are unexhausted and must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (ECF No. 16 n. 2, 3). Further, Defendant asserts that because the documents responsive to his 2017 FOIA request have been made available to Scott, this matter is no longer justiciable and should be dismissed as moot. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 11).

         I. FOIA

         The purpose of FOIA is to open government agency action to public scrutiny. See NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 149 (1975). Under the FOIA statute, federal agencies must make available promptly records upon request and where the agency receives reasonable description of the records sought, in accordance with the agency's published rules. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A); Pollack v. Department of Justice A9 F.3d 115, 118 (4th Cir. 1995). FOIA provides that, subject to certain statutory exemptions, federal agencies shall "upon any request for records which reasonably describe such records . . . make the records promptly available to any person." 5 U.S.C. § 522(a)(3)(A). "[T]he burden is on the government to demonstrate that it has thoroughly searched for the requested documents where they might reasonably be found." Krikorian v. Department of Stale, 984 F.2d 461, 468 (D.C.Cir.1993); accord Moffat v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 716 F.3d 244, 254 (2013). However, the agency is not obligated to look beyond the four corners of the request or otherwise speculate about potential leads; rather, [t]he adequacy of an agency's search is measured by a standard of reasonableness." McGehee v. CIA, 697 F.2d 1095, 1100-01 (D.C.Cir. 1983); see Morley v. CIA., 508 F.3d 1108, 1114 (D.C. Cir. 2007); Kowalczyk v. Dep't of Justice, 73 F.3d 386, 389 (D.C. Cir. 1996).

         In a lawsuit for release of documents under FOIA, “[o]nce the records are produced, the substance of the controversy disappears and becomes moot since the disclosure which the suit seeks has already been made." Jacobs v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 725 F.Supp.2d 85, 89 (D. D.C. 2010) (quoting Crooker v. U.S. State Dep't, 628 F.2d 9, 10 (D.C. Cir. 1980)); see also Morales v. Pension Ben. Guar. Corp.. Civ. Case No. L 10-1167, 2012 WL 253407, at *4 (D. Md. Jan. 26, 2012) ("A FOIA action becomes moot when, during the pendency of a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of document, the requester is provided with all documents responsive to his request."); Regional Mgmt. Corp. v. Legal Servs. Corp.. 186 F.3d 457. 465 (4th Cir. 1999).

         II. ...


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