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Steven Jean-Pierre v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

July 30, 2012

STEVEN JEAN-PIERRE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Steven Jean-Pierre brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 552, et seq. against defendant Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). Before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Having considered the entire record in this case, the Court will grant defendant's motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in White Deer, Pennsylvania. (Decl. of Donna Johnson ¶ 2, May 11, 2012 ("Johnson Decl."); Compl. ¶ 3.) In a two-page letter dated March 17, 2011, plaintiff submitted a request for information, titled "Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request," to the Executive Office for United States Attorneys ("EOUSA"), a component of the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"). (Johnson Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. A; Compl. ¶¶ 1, 4; Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶¶ 1, 3, May 11, 2012 ("Def.'s Facts"); Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 1, May 21, 2012 ("Pl.'s Facts").) Plaintiff wrote, in pertinent part:

I, the undersign, identified as above, respectfully request the following information (1) who did give the Order to take me out of Schuykill Federal Camp and locked me up in FCI Schuykill (SHU) from the date of April-10/2010.?

(2). What was the reason for taking me out of Schuykill Federal Camp and placing me I FCI Schuykill (SHU) Special Hosuing Unit.?

(3) On what day did Schuykill Administration called (Agent Walter C. Riggs) from (ICE/Homeland Security) and informed him to come see me at the FCI Schuykill SHU. ?

(Johnson Decl. Ex. A (errors in original); see also id. ¶¶ 7-8, 11.) This letter was signed, dated, and captioned, and included the plaintiff's name, register number, and address, but did not include plaintiff's date and place of birth, and was not notarized or submitted with a 28 U.S.C. § 1746 statement that the declaration was made under penalty of perjury. (Johnson Decl. Ex. A; see also Def.'s Reply at 4; Def.'s Mem. at 5-6, 10.)

The EOUSA designated plaintiff's letter as request number 2011-956 and by undated letter forwarded it to the BOP, also a component of the DOJ, for processing and response. (Johnson Decl. ¶ 7 & Ex. A; Def.'s Facts ¶ 3; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 2.) The EOUSA informed the BOP that plaintiff had been notified of this action. (Johnson Decl. ¶ 7 & Ex. A; Def.'s Facts ¶ 3; Compl. Ex. 5). The BOP received plaintiff's letter on April 11, 2011, designated it as request number 2011-6289, and assigned it to its Northeast Regional Office for processing on April 25, 2011. (Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 4-7; Johnson Decl. ¶¶ 8-9.)*fn1

By letter dated May 4, 2011, plaintiff submitted an appeal to the DOJ Office of Information Policy ("OIP"), in which he stated that 30 days had passed since his request had been forwarded to the BOP with no response. (Decl. of Priscilla A. Jones ("Jones Decl.") ¶ 2 & Ex. A; Compl. Ex. A; Def.'s Facts ¶ 8.) Plaintiff asked the OIP to "consider this request as a resubmission" of request number 2011-956.*fn2 (Id.) The OIP's Administrative Section, which oversees the logging of administrative appeals from all denials of FOIA requests from all DOJ components (Jones Decl. ¶ 1), received plaintiff's appeal on May 20, 2011. (Jones Decl. ¶ 2 & Ex. A.) By letter dated May 31, 2011, the OIP acknowledged receipt of the appeal, which it designated appeal number AP-2011-01977, and informed plaintiff that he would be notified of a decision at a future date. (Jones Decl. ¶ 3 & Ex. B; Def.'s Facts ¶ 9.) On July 12, 2011, plaintiff sent a second letter to the OIP, which he styled a "2nd and Final Notice to administrative review of the FOIA request," inquiring about the status of his appeal. (Jones Decl. ¶ 4 & Ex. C; Compl. ¶ 5 & Ex. A; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3.)

By letter dated August 24, 2011, the OIP responded to plaintiff's May 4, 2011 letter and affirmed the EOUSA's action on the request, finding that the EOUSA's action in referring the request to the BOP was proper, since the BOP was "most likely to maintain responsive records." (Jones Decl. ¶ 5 & Ex. D; Compl . ¶ 5 & Ex. 1; Def.'s Facts ¶ 10; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 4.) The OIP advised plaintiff that requests for updates on the status of his request were best directed to the BOP and that plaintiff would be able to appeal any future adverse decision by the BOP. (Jones Decl. ¶ 5 & Ex. D; Def.'s Facts ¶ 10.)

By letter dated December 15, 2011, the BOP denied plaintiff's request on the ground that it was not a request cognizable under the FOIA because it was a series of questions concerning his move to a special housing unit rather than a request for access to records. (See Johnson Decl. & Ex. D; see also id. at ¶¶ 12-13; Def.'s Facts ¶ 12; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 10). The BOP explained:

In response to your request, the Freedom of Information Act was not designed to answer specific questions. The Freedom of Information Act was designed to provide documents that are maintained by an agency. Please re-submit your request in proper form and it will be processed. (Johnson Decl. Ex. D.) The BOP advised plaintiff that he had the right to administratively appeal its determination to the Attorney General and provided information about how to do so. (Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 16-17; Johnson Decl. ¶ 13 & Ex. D.)*fn3 Plaintiff neither appealed nor resubmitted his request. (Jones Decl. ¶ 6; Johnson Decl. ¶ 6.)

Plaintiff commenced this FOIA action against the BOP on January 19, 2012, filing a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief that seeks to compel "the production of agency records previously requested by plaintiff . . . which requests have either been ignored or denied by the defendant agency." (Compl. ΒΆ 1.) The BOP filed an answer on March 12, 2012, and then, on May 11, 2012, filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), or, in the alternative, for ...


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