United States District Court, District of Columbia
October 19, 2000
BILLY RAY DALE, PLAINTIFF,
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.
Denying the Plaintiff's Motion Appealing the Denial of
This case requires the court to examine the scope of the "Related
Cases" rule, Local Civil Rule 40.5 of the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia. Plaintiff Billy Ray Dale ("the plaintiff"
or "Mr. Dale") appeals from United States District Judge Royce Lamberth's
denial of related-case status to this matter and from Judge Lamberth's
decision that this case should be randomly reassigned. In his complaint,
the plaintiff claimed that this case and Alexander v. FBI, Dkt. Nos.
96-cv-2123 & 97-cv-1288 — pending before Judge Lamberth —
shared enough similarities to be deemed related cases under Local Rule
40.5 ("Rule 40.5"). The defendant Executive Office of the President ("the
defendant" or "EOP") opposed the plaintiff's motion. For the reasons
stated below, the court agrees with Judge Lamberth's analysis.
Accordingly, the court denies the plaintiff's motion and holds that this
case does not meet the criteria for related-case status under Rule 40.5.
On September 15, 1999, Billy Ray Dale filed a complaint alleging a
violation of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a et seq. Mr.
Dale served as head of the White House Travel Office from 1982-1993,
until he was fired on May 19, 1993. See Compl. at 2; Def.'s Local Rule
40.5(c)(3) Objection to Pl.'s Designation of Related Case ("Def.'s
Objection") at 3. In his complaint, Mr. Dale alleged that the EOP
maintained confidential records on him, which included "information
unlawfully obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and, on
information and belief, from others, including other government
agencies." Compl. at 5. Claiming that the EOP refused to allow him access
to his records, Mr. Dale alleged that this action violated the Privacy
Act. See id. The BOP countered by arguing that the Privacy Act does not
apply to the White House. See Pl.'s Local Rule 40.5(c)(3) Appeal of
Denial of Related Case Status to the Calendar Committee ("Pl.'s
Appeal"), Ex. 5 (letter from the defendant's representative, Joseph
The EOP also objected to Mr. Dale's claim that this case and three
cases that had been previously assigned to United States District Judge
Royce Lamberth — Alexander v. FBI, Dkt. Nos. 96-cv-2123,
97-cv-1288, Sculimbrene v. Reno, Dkt. No. 99-cv-2010, and Barr v.
Executive Office of the President, Dkt. No. 99-cv-1695 — were
related cases under Rule 40.5(c)(3). The defendant thus requested that
the "plaintiff's lawsuit be transferred to the Calendar Committee for
reassignment in the ordinary fashion." Def.'s Objection at 2. After the
parties traded filings, Judge Lamberth ruled that the case was not a
related case under Rule 40.5 and transferred it to the Calendar Committee
for random reassignment. See Lamberth Mem. Op. dated Jan. 24, 2000.
On January 27, 2000, the plaintiff timely filed its appeal of Judge
Lamberth's decision under Rule 40.5(c)(3)'s three-day framework. See
Pl.'s Appeal. The following day, the Calendar Committee assigned the case
to this member of the court. See Reassignment of Dkt. No. 99-cv-2453.
Soon thereafter, the defendant filed its response to the plaintiff's
appeal and the plaintiff filed its reply. For the reasons stated below,
the court agrees with Judge Lamberth's Memorandum Opinion that this case
is not related to Alexander, Sculimbrene, or Barr under Rule 40.5.
A. Standard for a Rule 40.5(a)(3) Related-Case Assignment
Local Civil Rule 40.3 sets forth this court's default rule for
assigning cases, stating that "[e]xcept as otherwise provided by these
Rules, civil, criminal and miscellaneous cases shall be assigned to
Judges of this court selected at random . . . ." In a recent opinion, the
Calendar Committee of this court explained the importance of the
The fundamental rationale for the general rule
requiring random assignment of cases is to ensure
greater public confidence in the integrity of the
judicial process. The rule guarantees fair and equal
distribution of cases to all judges, avoids public
perception or appearance of favoritism in
assignments, and reduces opportunities for
Tripp v. Executive Office of the President, 196 F.R.D. 201, 202 (D.D.C.
2000) (discussing Rule 40.3).
As Judge Lamberth noted in Tripp v. Executive Office of the President,
Local Rule 40.5 stands as an exception to the general rule of random
assignment of cases in the District Court. See Tripp, 194 F.R.D. 340, 342
(D.D.C. 2000). In the interest of judicial economy, Rule 40.5 allows
assignment to the same judge when the earliest case is still pending on
the merits before that judge and both cases (1) relate to common
property, or (2) involve common issues of fact, or (3) grow out of the
same event or transaction, or (4) involve a patent infringement. See LCvR
40.5(a)(3). The party who seeks to avoid random reassignment bears the
burden of showing that the cases are related under a provision of Rule
40.5(a)(3). See, e.g., Tripp, 194 F.R.D. at 342.
B. Application of the Rule
Applying the related-case rule to the matter at bar demonstrates that
Judge Lamberth correctly concluded that this case should be randomly
reassigned. Judge Lamberth properly rejected the plaintiff's argument
under Rule 40.5(a)(3) that this case and Alexander v. FBI, Dkt. Nos.
96-cv-2123 and 97-cv-1288, involve common issues of fact and grow out of
the same transaction. The Judge explained:
Plaintiff's F.B.I. file was allegedly obtained by the
White House while plaintiff was employed at the White
House Travel Office, so the issues presented in the
Alexander case — involving the White House
obtaining F.B.I. files of former political appointees
or government employees under the Reagan and Bush
Administrations — simply do not arise out of the
same event or transaction. Any common issues of fact
are minimal and completely insufficient to meet
plaintiff's burden of demonstrating that these two
cases are related.
Dale v. Executive Office of the President, Dkt. No. 99-cv-2453, Order
dated Jan. 24, 2000, at 1. In addition, Judge Lamberth held that the case
at bar was not related to Sculimbrene v. Reno, Dkt. No. 99-cv-2010, and
Barr v. Executive Office of the President, Dkt. No. 99-cv-1695, merely
because all these cases involved the denial of a Privacy Act request.
Id., at 2.
As noted above, the court agrees with Judge Lamberth's assessment of
the applicability of Rule 40.5. Furthermore, "the court has adopted a
strict position that . . . `the same parties' means identical parties,
not parties in interest." Thomas v. National Football League Players
Ass'n, 1992 WL 43121, *1 (D.D.C. 1992). In this case, the plaintiff
— the former head of the White House Travel Office — is
clearly not the same party as the hundreds of plaintiffs involved in
Alexander. Quite simply, the plaintiff has not met its burden to show
that this case is related to Alexander.
For all of these reasons, the court concluded that this case was
properly transferred from Judge Lamberth to the Calendar Committee for
and issued an Order on September 29, 2000 denying the plaintiff's Rule
40.5(c)(3) appeal. This Memorandum Opinion is executed and issued this
___ day of October, 2000.
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