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Jeremy Bigwood v. Defense Intelligence Agency

March 22, 2011

JEREMY BIGWOOD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, DEFENDANT.



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

Re Document Nos.: 33, 40

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RELIEF UPON RECONSIDERATION; DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion for relief upon reconsideration*fn1 and his motion for attorney's fees. This case arises under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and concerns the defendant's processing of the plaintiff's requests for records relating to Colombian paramilitary leader Carlos Castano. The court previously granted the defendant's motion to dismiss and dismissed the case. The plaintiff now seeks relief upon reconsideration of that decision and attorney's fees. Because the plaintiff has not articulated a basis for the court to reconsider its opinion dismissing the case, and because the plaintiff is not eligible for attorney's fees, the court denies both motions.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 30, 2010, the court issued a memorandum opinion wherein it set forth the relevant factual and procedural background in this case. See Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2010) at 2-3. Briefly, in 2001, the plaintiff submitted a FOIA request to the defendant seeking "any and all records relating to paramilitary leader Carlos Castano." Compl. ¶ 6. Three years later, the defendant notified the plaintiff that a preliminary search located over 4,000 potentially responsive documents and asked that the plaintiff consider narrowing the scope of his request. Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2010) at 2. The plaintiff declined to do so and instead submitted a request for expedited processing, which the defendant denied. Id. The plaintiff administratively appealed the defendant's decision, which the defendant denied. Id.

Subsequently, the plaintiff filed suit alleging, among other things, violations of the FOIA. See generally Compl. The defendant filed two motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, for partial summary judgment. See generally Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summ. J.; Def.'s 2d Mot. to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summ. J. On March 30, 2010, the court granted the defendant's motions to dismiss and dismissed the plaintiff's FOIA claim because it was filed outside the FOIA's six-year statute of limitations.

See generally Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2010). The same day that the court granted the defendant's motions and dismissed the case, the plaintiff submitted a new FOIA request to the defendant.

See Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. at 2. Based on the fact that he submitted a new FOIA request, the plaintiff is asking the court to reconsider its March 30, 2010 ruling dismissing the case. See generally Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. The plaintiff also seeks an award of attorney's fees. See generally Pl.'s Mot. for Atty's Fees. With the motions now fully briefed, the court turns to the applicable legal standards and the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Court Denies the Plaintiff's Motion for Relief Upon Reconsideration

1. Legal Standard for a Motion for Relief Upon Reconsideration of a Final Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) provides that a motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed within twenty-eight days of the entry of the judgment at issue. FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e); see also Mashpee Wamponoag Tribal Council, Inc. v. Norton, 336 F.3d 1094, 1098 (D.C. Cir. 2003). While the court has considerable discretion in ruling on a Rule 59(e) motion, the reconsideration and amendment of a previous order is an unusual measure. Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam); McDowell v. Calderon, 197 F.3d 1253, 1255 (9th Cir. 1999). Rule 59(e) motions "need not be granted unless the district court finds that there is an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear legal error or prevent manifest injustice." Ciralsky v. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 355 F.3d 661, 671 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (quoting Firestone, 76 F.3d at 1208). Moreover, "[a] Rule 59(e) motion to reconsider is not simply an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon which a court has already ruled," New York v. United States, 880 F. Supp. 37, 38 (D.D.C. 1995), or a vehicle for presenting theories or arguments that could have been advanced earlier, Kattan v. Dist. of Columbia, 995 F.2d 274, 276 (D.C. Cir. 1993); W.C. & A.N. Miller Cos. v. United States, 173 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.D.C. 1997).

2. The Plaintiff Has Not Demonstrated His Entitlement to Relief Upon Reconsideration The plaintiff argues that because he submitted a new and substantially identical FOIA request on the date that this court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court "has discretion to retain jurisdiction over this action as plaintiff again exhausts his administrative remedies." Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. at 2. The plaintiff further argues that "the equities favor retaining jurisdiction while the plaintiff exhausts his administrative remedies," after which time the court can grant the plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, because otherwise, the "plaintiff will have to file another lawsuit on the new FOIA request ...


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