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Roman v. National Reconnaissance Office

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 9, 2013

GILBERT ROMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL RECONNAISSANCE OFFICE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

EMMET G. SULLIVAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Gilbert Roman, proceeding pro se, brings this case alleging violations of his constitutional rights in connection with the government's processing of his requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA").[1] Pending before the Court are: (1) Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, (Docket No. 7), and Plaintiff's oppositions thereto (Docket Nos. 11, 14, 17); (2) Plaintiff's motions for discovery (Docket Nos. 9 and 15); and (3) Plaintiff's requests to enter evidence into the record. (Docket Nos. 10, 16, 18).

As an initial matter, Plaintiff's requests to enter evidence into the record are GRANTED. Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff's Oppositions, the entire record in this case, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. Consequently, Plaintiff's motions for discovery are DENIED as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a private citizen seeking damages of $7, 000, 000 against defendant National Reconnaissance Office ("NRO"), a United States government agency responsible for building, launching, and maintaining America's intelligence satellites. Compl. at 1; Civil Cover Sheet at 2. Plaintiff claims that Defendant failed to adequately respond to his requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2012). Compl. at 1. Mr. Roman requested documents concerning functional magnetic resonance imaging ("FMRI") technology "or the ability to read the pulses and patterns of the human brain." Id. He alleges Defendant's inadequate search for the requested documents violated his First Amendment rights of free speech and free press, and his Fifth Amendment right to due process. Id. Although the Complaint does not specify which requests Plaintiff claims the NRO inadequately considered, the attachments to the Complaint reference three FOIA requests.

First, on August 16, 1996, Plaintiff made a FOIA request for several categories of information to the Department of Defense, which was forwarded to the NRO for processing.[2] Compl., Ex. A. On September 26, 1996, the NRO responded to Plaintiff's request advising that it did not have responsive records for some of his requests.[3] Compl., Ex. A1-2. As to the other requests, Defendant claimed those documents would be classified under Executive Order 12958, if they existed, making them exempt from disclosure under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1).[4] Id. Defendant also advised Plaintiff that he had the right to appeal the decision, which, according to the record before this Court, Plaintiff did not. Compl., Ex. A2.

Second, on May 14, 2009, Plaintiff sent another FOIA request to Defendant. Compl., Ex. A3-4. Plaintiff requested:

"1.... information on functional magnetic resonance imaging. 2. The date it was put into service. 3. The first successful report on the first person it was used on successfully." Compl., Ex. A3. On June 16, 2009, Defendant accepted Plaintiff's May 14, 2009 request, and advised Plaintiff that it was limiting its search to NRO-originated records. Compl., Ex. A6.

On July 1, 2009, Defendant advised Plaintiff that it completed its search but did not have responsive documents. Compl., Ex. A8-9. Plaintiff appealed Defendant's determination on July 12, 2009. Compl., Ex. A10. After review, Defendant confirmed the determination, and advised Plaintiff of his rights for judicial review of the decision. Compl., Ex. A11.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the NRO in the Eastern District of New York, Roman v. National Reconnaissance Office, No. 09-CV-2504 (the "New York case"). Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mot."), Ex. A at 1, 4. In the New York case, Plaintiff requested documents in response to his May 14, 2009 FOIA request to the NRO - the same request he references in this action. Compare Id. at 2 n.3, with Compl., Ex. A3-4. The NRO filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court granted. Def.'s Mot., Ex. A at 10-11. The court found that the NRO performed a reasonable and adequate search for the requested documents and did not improperly withhold any responsive documents. Id. at 11.

Third, on October 22, 2009, Plaintiff sent another FOIA request to Defendant.[5] Compl., Ex. A13-14. Defendant responded to the request on November 23, 2010, and enclosed 412 pages of responsive documents but withheld 37 pages of responsive documents asserting applicable FOIA exemptions. Id. Defendant advised Plaintiff of his right to appeal its determination, which according to the record before this Court, Plaintiff did not. Compl., Ex. A14.

Pursuant to the record before this Court, Plaintiff's FOIA requests at issue in this case are his August 16, 1996, May 14, 2009, and October 22, 2009 requests.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 795 F.Supp.2d 85, 90 (D.D.C. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must have "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'...." Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr., 795 F.Supp.2d at 90 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). ...


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