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Brent Edward Crummey v. Social Security Administration

June 30, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge


trust, n. (15c) .

. . . The right, enforceable solely in equity, to the beneficial enjoyment of property to which another person holds the legal title; a property interest held by one person (the trustee) at the request of another (the settlor) for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary).

BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 1647 (9th ed. 2009).

Plaintiff Brent Edward Crummey ("Crummey") has a theory. He believes that the Social Security Administration (the "SSA") created a trust, which he calls BRENT E. CRUMMEY (the "Trust"), when it assigned him a Social Security Number ("SSN") and a Social Security Card ("SSC") over thirty years ago. Crummey believes that the Trust is a legal entity in its own right and contends that he merely lends it "consciousness" and "physical capacity." Based on this theory, Crummey decided to draft an agreement designed to reflect the alleged creation of the Trust (the "Trust Agreement") and, over the years, Crummey has repeatedly tried to get the SSA to add a copy of the Trust Agreement to its official records. The SSA has consistently rejected Crummey's theory, and along with it, Crummey's several requests for amendment. The matter comes to a head in this action, which Crummey has brought against the SSA under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552. Crummey contends that the SSA violated these statutes by refusing to amend some of its records and by failing to provide him access to others at his request.

Presently before the Court is the SSA's [9] Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment ("Motion for Summary Judgment"), which Crummey has opposed. Also before the Court are Crummey's [14] Motion to File a Surreply and his [19] Second Motion for Judicial Notice, in which Crummey asks this Court to consider various supplemental materials in further opposition to the SSA's Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon a searching review of the parties' submissions, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the SSA's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, Crummey's Motion to File a Surreply will be denied, Crummey's Second Motion for Judicial Notice will be granted-in-part and denied-in-part, and this action will be dismissed. Briefly stated, the Court concludes that the SSA properly denied each of Crummey's requests for amendment and that Crummey's requests for access are moot because the SSA has produced all responsive records in its possession, custody, or control.


Although styled in the alternative as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,*fn1 the SSA's motion turns upon the consideration of materials outside the scope of the pleadings. In the course of briefing the motion, both parties effectively treat the motion as one for summary judgment. For his part, Crummey does not suggest that he has been deprived "a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). Indeed, in opposition to the SSA's motion, Crummey has introduced, and relies heavily upon, materials outside the scope of the pleadings. Accordingly, the Court shall treat the motion solely as one for summary judgment.


This action has its origins in Crummey's efforts to have the SSA add a document to one of its most important record systems-the Master Files of the Social Security Number (SSN) Holders and SSN Applications (the "Master Files"). Briefly stated, the Master Files contain all the information that the SSA receives on applications for SSNs (name, date and place of birth, sex, etc.), as well as other data elements directed towards establishing the identity of individuals assigned SSNs. See Notice of Proposed Routine Use, 75 Fed. Reg. 82,121, 82,123 (Dec. 29, 2010). The touchstone for assigning SSNs, and by extension the fundamental underpinning of the Master Files, is "true identity." See 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(B)(ii); 20 C.F.R. §§ 422.103(c)(1), 422.107(a), 422.110(a).

A. The Trust Agreement

Crummey believes that the SSA created the Trust when it assigned him an SSN and SSC on or about October 17, 1976. To reflect this, Crummey drafted the Trust Agreement. See Decl. of Dawn S. Wiggins ("Wiggins Decl."), ECF No. [9-1], Ex. A. Styled as an agreement between the SSA and the Trust, with Crummey identified as the trustee, it provides:

ORIGIN. This Trust was originally created, by the Social Security Administration . . . when SSA presented property, belonging to the United States Government, to the person SSA intended as the one that would lend consciousness and physical capacity to the Trust's trustee capacity . . . ; thus, the Trust was created by the acceptance of said property, the Social Security Card (hereinafter "SSC"). Printed upon the SSC was the Trust's name and Social Security Number (hereinafter "SSN"), followed by a place for the Trust's signature.

TRUSTEE. This Trust was created with a name that sounds nearly or exactly like the name of the child of God, who by covenant to obey the Law of Consecration only has the capacity of a Steward in the Kingdom of Israel as exemplified in a controlling Instrument of Acknowledgment. This Trust is neither said child nor said stewardship and in no ways acts as an alter ego or nominee of either. However, in accord with the SSA's assignment of this Trust's trustee capacity, through said Instrument of Acknowledgment said child lends consciousness and physical capacity to the Kingdom of Israel, which consciousness and physical capacity is subsequently borrowed by the Trust's trustee capacity to facilitate the Trust's ability to function in accord with the Trust's creation, which is exemplified in this Trust Indenture.

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (SSN): The Creator assigned the SSN to distinguish this Trust from any other person of a same or similar name. Where the names of the Trust and said child are so similar as to sound identical and are only distinguishable by punctuation and or capitalization in spelling, the SSN so assigned, and or any other respective Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), must be used to designate: tax payments, ownership and/or acquisition of assets, accounts and/or property held separately by The Trust.

VERIFICATION: This instant instrument (hereinafter "Trust Indenture") acknowledges, verifies and secures the nature of the relationship SSA created between the parties listed herein. This Trust Indenture was generated by the Trust (named above) and presented (minus said Schedules) to SSA with a Request for Amendment to SSA's records for this taxpayer (said Trust) to verify the facts of the Trust's creation and existence as related in this formal written Trust Indenture.

Id. at 1-2 (notations in original; no alterations made). While dated December 17, 2007, the Trust Agreement purports to reflect the creation of the Trust thirty years' prior "nunc pro tunc." Id. at 2. Crummey's signature appears at the bottom, while the SSA's agreement is stated to be evidenced by "[a]cts of issuing the Trust's name and SSN[,] distributing the Social Security Card to be so held in trust, maintaining [an] open accounting under said SSN, accepting and distributing funds in regard to the same, amending the record or by tacit admission to the same." Id. (bold in original).

B. Crummey's Requests for Amendment

Over the years, Crummey has repeatedly tried to get the SSA to add a copy of the Trust Agreement to its Master Files.*fn2 Crummey contends that he mailed the first of his three formal written requests for amendment to the SSA on August 17, 2007, the second on December 17, 2007, and the third on March 3, 2009. See Verified Compl. ("Compl."), ECF No. [1], at 2*fn3 ; Pl.'s MSJ Stmt. ¶¶ 2-4; Decl. of Brent Edward Crummey ("Crummey Decl."), ECF No. [11-2], ¶ 13. Each request asked the SSA to amend its records to add the Trust Agreement to the SSA's Master Files, or to somehow incorporate its contents therein. See Pl.'s MSJ Stmt. ¶ 5.*fn4

The SSA has no record of receiving any of these three requests. See Wiggins Decl. ¶¶ 18-19, 22. While Crummey points to mailing receipts that he claims correspond to each request,*fn5 the receipts indicate that the requests were all mailed to this address:

Social Security Commissioner

SSI Administration 1500 Woodlawn Drive Baltimore, MD 21241 Crummey Decl. Ex. 3. Regulations, meanwhile, expressly provide that any request to amend the SSA's Master Files should be directed to this address:

Director, Division of Enumeration Verification and Death Alerts Office of Earnings, Enumeration, and Administrative Systems Social Security Administration 6401 Security Boulevard Baltimore, MD 21235 20 C.F.R. § 401.65(a); Notice of Proposed Routine Use, 75 Fed. Reg. 82,121, 82,126 (Dec. 29, 2010). Despite this disparity, the SSA has a general policy favoring the rerouting of requests from one office to another. See Crummey Decl. Ex. 2.*fn6

C. Crummey's Requests for Access

In addition to his three requests for amendment, Crummey has made a series of requests, some in writing and others in person, through which he sought access to certain records claimed to be in the SSA's possession, custody, or control. Crummey claims that he made these requests over a period spanning more than a year, beginning on or about February 20, 2009 and concluding on or about July 29, 2010. See Compl. at 2; Pl.'s MSJ Opp'n at 7-9; Pl.'s MSJ Stmt. ¶¶ 6-7, 23, 25; Crummey Decl. ¶¶ 21, 24, 27, 29, 35.*fn7 Through these requests, Crummey sought the following:

* A copy of his original SSN application, referred to as an "SS-5";

* A copy of his original SSC;

* A copy of the Trust Agreement;

* Copies of each of his prior ...

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