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JONES v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

United States District Court, D. Columbia


September 12, 2005.

MICHAEL JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: EMMET SULLIVAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

In this action brought under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. ยง 552, plaintiff challenges the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") response to his request dated May 1, 2004, for a copy of the "transfer package" prepared for his transfer from the Federal Prison Camp in Marion, Illinois, to the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City, Arkansas. Complaint, Ex. A. BOP located 13 responsive records. By letter dated September 23, 2004, it released three pages in their entirety and ten pages with redactions, and advised plaintiff about his right to appeal to the Office of Information and Privacy within 60 days. Before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motion, plaintiff's opposition, and the entire record, the Court will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.*fn1 Defendants seek dismissal of the complaint on the ground that plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies by appealing the agency's determination as he was so advised in the September 23 letter.*fn2 See Deft's Ex. C. The District of Columbia Circuit has interpreted the exhaustion provisions of the FOIA as "requiring the completion of the administrative appeal process before courts become involved, if the agency has responded to the request before suit is filed." Oglesby v. Dep't of the Army, 920 F.2d 57, 65 (D.C. Cir. 1990). While exhaustion is not jurisdictional, "as a jurisprudential doctrine, failure to exhaust precludes judicial review" if a merits determination would undermine the purpose of permitting an agency to review its determinations in the first instance. Hidalgo v. FBI, 344 F.3d 1256, 1258-59 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Because BOP responded to plaintiff's request before he filed this complaint on October 12, 2004, plaintiff was required to exhaust his administrative remedies. The Court therefore grants defendants' motion for summary judgment. A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum.

20050912

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