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SCHWARZ v. U.S. DEPT. OF TREASURY

November 30, 2000

BARBARA SCHWARZ, PLAINTIFF,
V.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennedy, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

This is an action brought under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 ("FOIA"), and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, sues 79 entities of the federal government,*fn1 seeking records regarding herself, Mark Rathbun (de Rothschild), members of his family, President Dwight David Eisenhower, Rosemarie Bretschneider, L. Ron Hubbard, Sarah Hubbard, the Church of Scientology, alleged German Nazi-conspiracies infiltrating the United States Government, and any Independent or Special Counsel who has investigated the alleged wrongful incarceration of Mark Rathbun.*fn2

Presently before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that Defendants' motion should be granted.*fn3

I. BACKGROUND

It appears that Plaintiff believes that Rathbun is her husband and is incarcerated because he was framed by a German-controlled Nazi conspiracy of having raped and murdered her. Plaintiff alleges that she is a witness to Rathbun's wrongful incarceration and that he continues to be wrongfully held because he cannot find her and she cannot find him. Plaintiff also contends that she is the grand-daughter of President Eisenhower and was kidnaped by the Germans when she was a child, in retaliation for his defeat of the Nazis in World War II.*fn4

Plaintiff s numerous FOIA requests of each defendant entity were slightly different. In many instances Plaintiff asked for all requests for information regarding herself made by or on behalf of Mark Rathbun or an Independent or Special Counsel. Plaintiff objects that the Defendants have not produced the requested records and have not given her declarations as to their systems of records and the scope of the searches made pursuant to her requests. She also objects to the refusal of certain Defendants to waive the usual fee for copies of records of previous FOIA cases she has filed. She suggests that one can infer that these Defendants are withholding the records she seeks because these Defendants initially sent her only a printout of her previous cases rather than copies of all documents related to those cases.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

The many documents submitted by the parties have been reviewed under the following legal standards and principles. The court may dismiss a complaint on the ground that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it appears that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his or her claim that would warrant relief. Fed.R.Civ.P.12 (b)(6); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Kowal v. MCI Communications Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C.Cir. 1994); Thomas v. District of Columbia, 887 F. Supp. 1, 5 n. 2 (D.D.C. 1995).

A motion for summary judgment should be granted if the moving party demonstrates, when the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the opponent, that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In considering whether there is a triable issue of fact, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The party opposing a motion for summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Moreover, "any factual assertions in the movant's affidavits will be accepted as being true unless [the opposing party] submits his own affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the assertion." Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C.Cir. 1992) (quoting Lewis v. Faulkner, 689 F.2d 100, 102 (7th Cir. 1982)).

The Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, provides a procedure under which individuals can obtain access to information about themselves maintained by federal government agencies, but which protects individuals against unrestricted disclosure of such information without their consent. The information that may be disclosed is only that which is "maintained by an agency" (Section 552a(a)(4)) in a system of records, that is, "a group of any records . . . from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual." Section 552a(a)(5). of special relevance to Plaintiff's request for information regarding individuals other than herself is the firm prohibition against disclosure "to any person . . . except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains." Section 552a(b).*fn5 There are certain exceptions to this prohibition, however. The only one that might arguably be relevant here is Exception 8, "pursuant to a showing of compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual . . . ."

In a FOIA case, the Court may grant summary judgment solely on the basis of information provided in a declaration, when the declaration describes "the documents and the justifications for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail, demonstrate[s] that the information withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, records. and [is] not controverted by either contrary evidence in the record nor by evidence of agency bad faith." Military Audit Project v. Casey, 656 F.2d 724, 738 (D.C.Cir. 1981). See also Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820, 826 (D.C.Cir. 1973), cert. denied; 415 U.S. 977, 94 S.Ct. 1564, 39 L.Ed.2d 873 (1974). The agency must prove that "each document that falls within the class requested either has been produced, is unidentifiable, or is wholly exempt from the Act's inspection requirements." Goland v. Central Intelligence Agency, 607 F.2d 339, 352 (D.C.Cir. 1978), cert. denied; 445 U.S. 927, 100 S.Ct. 1312, 63 L.Ed.2d 759 (1980).

III. ANALYSIS

Preliminarily, the Court notes that Plaintiff is under the misapprehension that an agency responding to a Privacy Act or FOIA request must provide a "search certificate" and a "Vaughn" index. Many of her complaints in correspondence to the agencies, as well as in her court documents, are that the agencies responded generally to her requests and did not provide an affidavit containing a detailed list of the records searched, the documents withheld, and the reasons for withholding those documents. Plaintiff is advised that there is no requirement that an agency provide a "search certificate" or a "Vaughn" index on an initial request for documents. The requirement for detailed declarations and Vaughn*fn6 indices is imposed in connection with a motion for summary judgment filed by a defendant in a civil action pending in court. See, e.g., Weisberg v. United States Dep't of Justice, 745 F.2d 1476, 1485 (D.C.Cir. 1984).

The declarations filed on behalf of Defendants and Plaintiff's own declaration have been reviewed carefully. In all instances, Defendants have shown either that (1) no responsive documents exist or (2) all responsive documents have been produced and that there is appropriate justification for any excisions made, or (3) the documents sought are exempt from disclosure. Plaintiff has not shown that there is a genuine issue of material fact to contradict the Defendants' statement of material facts submitted with their motion. It is not necessary to engage in an ...


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