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AFTERGOOD v. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

September 6, 2002

STEVEN AFTERGOOD, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS; GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SUPPLEMENTAL COMPLAINT

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and the plaintiff's motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint. On May 11, 1995, Steven Aftergood ("the plaintiff"), filed a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq., request with the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA" or "the defendant") seeking budget information for the years 1947 through 1990. Compl. ¶ 14. The CIA denied the plaintiff's request and on June 5, 1995 the plaintiff filed an administrative appeal with the CIA. Id. ¶ 16-17. Five years later, the CIA denied the plaintiff's appeal. Id. ¶ 18. Continuing his effort to obtain the budget information from the CIA, the plaintiff filed a complaint with this court on December 7, 2001. Id. ¶ 10.

II. ANALYSIS

A. The Court Grants the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

The defendant moves to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), arguing that the statute of limitations precludes the court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 1. On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction. Dist. of Columbia Retirement Bd. v. United States, 657 F. Supp. 428, 431 (D.D.C. 1987). In evaluating whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, the court must accept all the complaint's well-pled factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overturned on other grounds, Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982). The court need not, however, accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or legal conclusions that are cast as factual allegations. See, e.g., Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990).

The plaintiff in this case filed his complaint pro se.*fn1 As such, the court recognizes and applies to this case the principal that "[p]ro se litigants are allowed more latitude than litigants represented by counsel to correct defects in service of process and pleadings." Moore v. Agency for Int'l Dev., 994 F.2d 874, 876 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). Nevertheless, a pro se plaintiff, must still follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id.

The applicable statute of limitations for FOIA actions is 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a), which requires that a complaint be filed within six years of the accrual of a claim. 5 U.S.C. § 552; Spannaus v. Dep't of Justice, 824 F.2d 52, 55 (D.C. Cir. 1987). "Unlike an ordinary statute of limitations, § 2401(a) is a jurisdictional condition attached to the government's waiver of sovereign immunity, and as such must be strictly construed." Id.

Generally, a cause of action accrues as soon as the claimant can institute and maintain a suit in court. Spannaus, 824 F.2d at 56. More specifically, a FOIA claim accrues once the claimant has constructively exhausted his or her administrative remedies. Id. at 57. Constructive exhaustion occurs when the time limits by which an agency must reply to a FOIA claimant's request or appeal (if there is an appeal) expire. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C); Spannaus, 824 F.2d at 58.

B. The Court Grants the Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Supplemental Complaint Based on the 2002 FOIA Request

The plaintiff filed a second FOIA request with the CIA on February 22, 2002. Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to File a Supp. Compl. at 1-2. Though the requests were filed at different times and may have been reviewed by different CIA employees, the 2002 FOIA request is "substantially similar" to the 1995 FOIA request in that both request the same CIA budget information. Id. Regarding the 2002 request, the plaintiff constructively exhausted his administrative remedies 20 business days after filing the 2002 request, when the agency's response period expired. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i). Therefore, a new cause of action accrued on or about March 22, 2002. Id.; Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to File a Supp. Compl. at 2. The plaintiff requests leave to file a supplemental complaint, asserting that the addition of claims regarding the 2002 FOIA request cures the jurisdictional defect in the original complaint. Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to File a Supp. Compl. at 2.

A party may file supplemental pleadings "setting forth transactions or occurrences or events which have happened since the date of the pleading sought to be supplemented." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(d). Supplemental pleadings may introduce new causes of action not alleged in the original complaint so long as their introduction does not create surprise or prejudice the rights of the adverse party. Montgomery Envtl. Coalition v. Fri, 366 F. Supp. 261, 265-66 (D.D.C. 1973). Moreover, "leave to file a supplemental pleading should be freely permitted when the supplemental facts connect it to the original pleading." Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co., 71 F.3d 58, 66 (2d Cir. 1995). Finally, the purpose of pleading ...


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