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Ramstack v. Dep't of the Army

March 18, 2010

THOMAS RAMSTACK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Re Document Nos.: 23, 25

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS'RENEWED MOTION TO DISMISS AND FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT;DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendants' renewed motion to dismiss the complaint in part and for summary judgment on the remaining claims, and the plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. The pro se plaintiff brings suit under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, alleging that the defendants improperly withheld records and failed to conduct adequate searches in response to his numerous requests for records. The court previously dismissed a number of the plaintiff's claims and granted summary judgment to the defendants on several others. Defendant the U.S. Department of State ("DOS") now asks the court to dismiss all of the remaining claims against it on the grounds that they are time-barred. Defendants the U.S. Department of the Army ("Army") and the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff's remaining claims against them because they conducted adequate searches in response to the plaintiff's requests and uncovered no responsive documents. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants the defendants' motion in its entirety, and resolves all of the plaintiffs' claims in favor of the defendants.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

By way of brief background,*fn1 the plaintiff contends that he served in the U.S. Army from 1973 to 1975 and participated in a covert, Cold War confrontation with the Soviet military that took place in Spain. See Compl. ¶ 4.1. The plaintiff alleges that the injuries he suffered during that confrontation resulted in brain damage, which has caused "memory lapses and distortions [leaving] him unable to remember the exact nature of his service to the U.S. Army or the cause of his brain damage." Id. ¶ 4.4.

Beginning in the early 1980s and continuing through 2008, the plaintiff made thirteen FOIA requests for records to the DOS, the CIA and the Army in an attempt to obtain records regarding his alleged military service. See Mem. Op. (Mar. 24, 2009) at 2-6. For ease of reference, the court, in a prior decision, labelled the plaintiff's claims as follows: Claims 1 through 3 concerned his requests to the DOS in March 1987, June 1987 and January 2008 respectively; Claims 4 through 8 concerned his requests to the CIA in 1988, December 1992, July 2003 and December 2003 respectively; and Claims 9 through 13 concerned his requests to the Army by letter in July 2006, by letter in January 2008, by e-mail in January 2008, by letter on February 21, 2008 and by letter on February 23, 2008 respectively. See id. at 6-7.

On March 24, 2009, the court granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment and denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. See generally id. Specifically, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss Claims 3 and 6 because the plaintiff had not exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to those requests. Id. at 9-10. The court, however, denied without prejudice the defendants' motion to dismiss Claims 1, 2, 4 and 5 because the defendants failed to establish that the plaintiff had not exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to those claims. Id. at 10-12. The court also rejected the defendants' contention that the statute of limitations barred Claims 1, 2, 4 and 5 because the defendants had not provided the court with evidence demonstrating when the statute of limitations began to run on those requests. Id. at 12 n.8. With respect to Claims 7 through 9, the court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment because the searches conducted by the CIA and the Army were adequate. Id. at 15-19. The court, however, denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on Claims 10 through 13 because the defendants failed to demonstrate that they had conducted adequate searches in response to those requests. Id. at 19-20. As a result, Claims 1, 2, 4, 5 and 10 through 13 survived the defendants' prior motion. See generally id.

The defendants subsequently filed this renewed motion to dismiss and for summary judgment, seeking to dispose of the plaintiff's remaining claims. See generally Defs.' Renewed Mot. The plaintiff opposes the defendants' motion and has also moved for summary judgment. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Renewed Mot. & Mot. For Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Cross-Mot."). With these motions ripe for adjudication, the court turns to the applicable legal standards and the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Court Grants the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Claims 1 and 2

1. Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-89 (1938); see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (noting that "[a]s a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with an examination of our jurisdiction").

Because "subject-matter jurisdiction is an 'Art[icle] III as well as a statutory requirement . . . no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court.'" Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Ins. Corp. of Ir., v. Compagnie des Bauxite de Guinea, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)). On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing by a ...


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