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Hammouda v. United States Dept. of Justice Office of Information Policy

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 31, 2013

Micheline HAMMOUDA, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OFFICE OF INFORMATION POLICY, Defendant.

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Micheline Hammouda, Tallahassee, FL, pro se.

Theresa Ekeoma Dike, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, District Judge.

In this action brought pro se pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (" FOIA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 552, plaintiff initially challenged the failure of the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy (" OIP" ) to produce records pertaining to her criminal trial, particularly a contract for sale she alleges was used to convict her.[1] Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. Since the complaint referred also to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (" FBI" ), OIP located plaintiff's request to the FBI and determined that the FBI had

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processed and released responsive records. Hence, defendant moves for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on claims arising out of plaintiff's FOIA requests to OIP and the FBI. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (" Def.'s Mot." ) [Dkt. # 12]. Plaintiff has opposed defendant's motion with respect to both requests. See Objections to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ) [Dkt. # 14]. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record, the Court will grant defendant's motion and enter judgment accordingly.

BACKGROUND

1. Plaintiff's Request to OIP

By letter of February 24, 2011, addressed to OIP, plaintiff requested " a complete and thorough search of all filing systems and locations for all my records maintained by your agency; including, all documents and where appropriate ‘ main’ files and ‘ See References'." Decl. of Vanessa R. Brinkmann (" Brinkmann Decl." ) [Dkt. # 12-2], Ex. A.

By letter of April 14, 2011, OIP informed plaintiff that it maintains records only of DOJ's " senior leadership offices" and " adjudicates administrative appeals of denials of FOIA/PA requests made to [DOJ]." Id., Ex. B. Hence, it " typically" does not maintain records on individuals and " [a]s such, ... would not maintain the records you are seeking." Id., Ex. B. OIP " advised [plaintiff] that [DOJ] has a decentralized system for processing" FOIA and Privacy Act requests " and each component of the Department maintains its own records." Id. It further stated that " because you are seeking records from [DOJ], you need to direct your letter to the Department component(s) you believe have records pertaining to the subject of your request." Id.

OIP informed plaintiff that it was enclosing a copy of DOJ's FOIA reference guide, " which provides guidance for making FOIA and Privacy Act requests" to DOJ and " contains a listing of [DOJ] components, with a brief description of their functions[,] the records they maintain[,] [and] the addresses of their FOIA offices." Id. Finally, OIP advised plaintiff that if she still wanted that office to process her request, the ensuing search " would only locate administrative files associated with prior FOIA requests and administrative appeals you may have submitted to this Office," and reminded plaintiff that [none of] the senior leadership offices for which OIP processes FOIA requests ... typically maintain[s] records on individuals." Id. at 2. Eventually, OIP conducted a search of its tracking system and informed plaintiff by letter of June 27, 2011, that it had located no responsive records. Id., Ex. C. Plaintiff appealed OIP's decision to OIP's Director, who by letter of September 19, 2011, informed plaintiff that the decision of OIP's Initial Request Staff " was correct and that it conducted an adequate, reasonable search for [responsive] records...." Id., Ex. F.

2. Plaintiff's Request to the FBI

By letter of September 24, 2011, plaintiff submitted the same request to the FBI that she had submitted to OIP. Second Decl. of David M. Hardy (" Hardy Decl." ) [Dkt. # 12-1], Ex. A. Following a search of its " main files in the Central Records System [" CRS" ]," the FBI informed plaintiff by letter of October 5, 2011, that it had located no responsive records and that it was " unable to access the manual indices of FBI Headquarters at this time as they are currently being prepared for automation." Id. ¶ 21 & Ex. B. Plaintiff appealed that decision to OIP, Ex. C, which affirmed the FBI's determination by letter of November 23, 2011. Id., Ex. E. Plaintiff

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filed this civil action on January ...


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