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DALE v. EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
September 25, 2001
BILLY RAY DALE, PLAINTIFF,
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT
ON THE PLEADINGS
This case poses a distinct legal question: whether the Privacy Act of
1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a ("the Privacy Act"), applies to the White
House. Billy Ray Dale ("the plaintiff" or "Mr. Dale"), the former
Director of the White House Travel Office, argues that it does. The
plaintiff sued the Executive Office of the President ("the defendant" or
"the EOP") under the Privacy Act, seeking any and all files that it
maintained on him. Declaring that the Privacy Act was not intended to
cover the White House, the EOP denied the plaintiff's request.
The defendant now moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Specifically, the defendant
argues that Congress meant for the Privacy Act to apply only to
"agencies," and that those components of the EOP whose sole function is
to advise and assist the President are not "agencies" for purposes of the
Privacy Act. The court agrees with the defendant. Thus, the court lacks
jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff's Privacy Act claims and will grant
the defendant's motion.
Billy Ray Dale is the former Director of the White House Travel
Office. See Compl. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. for J. on the Pleadings
("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 2. In 1993, when President Clinton took office, Mr.
Dale had been the Director of the White House Travel Office ("Travel
Office") for 11 years, and had worked in the Travel Office in various
capacities for almost 32 years. See Compl. ¶ 3. On May 19, 1993,
the White House fired Mr. Dale. See Def.'s Mot. for J. on the Pleadings
("Def.'s Mot.") at 3. Subsequently, Mr. Dale was indicted on charges of
financial improprieties in managing the Travel Office. See Pl.'s Opp'n
at 2. In November 1995, Mr. Dale was acquitted of all charges. See id.
The media expressed a keen interest in the story of the firing of the
seven Travel Office employees, and dubbed the episode "Travelgate." See
id. at 2. In 1993, Congress began conducting hearings into the matter,
and, on September 26, 1996, the House of Representatives issued a lengthy
report on the subject that was critical of the Clinton White House. See
Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 2. Former Attorney General Janet Reno also appointed an
independent counsel to investigate whether any high-level White House
official had engaged in criminal wrongdoing in this matter. In June
2000, Robert Ray, the independent counsel, issued a summary of his final
report and announced that his office would not seek to prosecute any
individuals involved in the matter. See, e.g., Editorial, Unindicted,
but Not Cleared, Washington Post, June 23, 2000 at A30.
Mr. Dale alleges that during the course of these various
investigations, he "learned that the Clinton White House had requested
Mr. Dale's FBI background investigation file — allegedly to
determine whether he was `suitable' for access to the White House
— some seven (7) months after he had been fired." Pl.'s Opp'n at
3. In addition, the plaintiff claims that during the December 14, 1998
deposition of Linda Tripp in Alexander v. Executive Office of the
President, Dkt. Nos. 96cv2123 and 97cv1288 (before United States District
Judge Royce Lamberth), Ms. Tripp stated that, before Mr. Dale was fired
from his job at the Travel Office on May 19, 1993, she saw what she
believed was his FBI file on the desk of the then-Deputy White House
Counsel Vincent Foster. See
Compl. ¶ 14. Mr. Dale also asserts
that Ms. Tripp saw what she believed to be his FBI file in Mr. Foster's
safe in then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum's office. See id.
On July 14, 1999, Mr. Dale submitted a written request, pursuant to the
Privacy Act, for "any and all documents, including but not limited to
files, that refer or relate in any way to Billy Ray Dale." See id., Ex.
1. The request included a request for access to Mr. Dale's FBI
background investigation file. See id. ¶ 19; Pl.'s Opp'n at 4. The
EOP denied Mr. Dale's request on August 4, 1999.
In response, Mr. Dale filed this action on September 15, 1999, alleging
that the EOP had violated the Privacy Act by not allowing him access to
his records. In addition, Mr. Dale filed the case as a related case to
Alexander v. Executive Office of the President, Dkt. Nos. 96cv2123 and
97cv1288, pursuant to Local Civil Rule 40.5 of the United States District
Court for the District of Columbia. On January 24, 2000, Judge Lamberth
ruled that the case was not a related case to Alexander under Rule 40.5
and transferred it to the Calendar Committee for random reassignment.
Three days later, the plaintiff timely filed his appeal of Judge
Lamberth's decision. The following day, the Calendar Committee assigned
the case to this member of the court. See Reassignment of Docket No.
99cv2453. After the parties had fully briefed the related-case issue,
the court issued a Memorandum Opinion on October 19, 2000. See Dale v.
Executive Office of the President, 121 F. Supp.2d 35 (D.D.C. 2000)
(Urbina, J.). In sum, the court agreed with Judge Lamberth's analysis
and held that the case did not meet the criteria for related-case status
under Rule 40.5. See generally id.
In December 2000, the defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). The court now turns to
the defendant's motion.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) states that "[a]fter the
pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any
party may move for judgment on the pleadings." See FED. R. CIV.
P. 12(c).*fn1 If a party files a Rule 12(c) motion before
the answer, the court may treat it as a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6). See Seber v. Unger, 881 F. Supp. 323,
325 n. 2 (N.D.Ill. 1995). "In fact, any distinction between them
is merely semantic because the same standard applies to motions made
under either subsection." 2 Moore's ...
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