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Johnson v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 6, 2017

DAVID M. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TANYA S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 30. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. FOIA Requests to EEOC

         On or about April 1, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), see 5 U.S.C. § 552, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Compl. ¶ 19. Specifically, Plaintiff sought “MD-715 Reports for [the] Internal Revenue Service seeking all data pertaining to Management Directive 715 from October 31, 2003 through December 31, 2013.” Id. According to Plaintiff, these reports reflect “policy guidance which [EEOC] provides to Federal agencies . . . for their use in establishing and maintaining effective programs of equal employment opportunity . . . under Section 717 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.” Id. ¶ 1.

         EEOC assigned the matter a reference number (FOIA No. 820-2014-198608), and on April 28, 2014, it sent Plaintiff a written response:

Your request for copies of records containing all data required to be filed by the Internal Revenue Service with the [EEOC] in accordance with Management Directive 715; specifically information submitted to EEOC annually from October 31, 2003 through December 31, 2013, has been granted in part. The IRS has not submitted its annual report for fiscal year 2013. As discussed, we will provide you by email the responsive documents.

Defs.' Mem. of Law in Support of Mot. for Summ. J. (“Defs.' Mem.”), Decl. of Stephanie D. Garner (“Garner Decl.”), Ex. 1 at 3; see Compl. ¶ 20. The response included instructions for “fil[ing] a proper appeal from the determination under EEOC regulations, including the address to which the appeal should be directed, information on how to identify the correspondence as an appeal, the deadline by which the appeal must be submitted, and a link to further information on EEOC's website.” Garner Decl. ¶ 5. “[A] search of EEOC's electronic FOIA records and paper files” did not locate any “record of a properly filed appeal from the April 28, 2014 determination[.]” Id. ¶ 6.

         According to Plaintiff, he submitted a second FOIA request to EEOC on or about October 26, 2015 “seeking the . . . IRS MD-715 Report for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2014.” Compl. ¶ 23. A search of EEOC's “electronic and paper records, including the archives of the agency's FOIA email account (FOIA@eeoc.gov), . . . found no record of a second FOIA request, or any other correspondence, received from Plaintiff.” Garner Decl. ¶ 7. Upon EEOC's receipt of a copy of the motion for summary judgment Plaintiff filed in this civil action [ECF No. 11], EEOC staff “again searched the email archive for FOIA@eeoc.gov but found no record of the October 26, 2015 email.” Id. ¶ 8. At this point, “because the copy of the request attached to [Plaintiff's summary judgment motion] provided EEOC with notice of the content of Plaintiff's attempted request, EEOC [staff] logged the request as received on April 4, 2016.” Id. ¶ 9. EEOC granted the request, and on April 12, 2016, it released the requested records in full. Id.; see id., Ex. 2. EEOC staff considered Plaintiff's second FOIA request “somewhat ambiguous, ” and they “released the reports submitted by the IRS in 2014 and 2015, since both reports contained information covering a portion of calendar year 2014.” Id. ¶ 9.

         B. FOIA Request to the OPM

         Plaintiff named the former Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) as a defendant in this case. OPM staff was “asked to verify whether [OPM's] EEO office had answered a FOIA request from [Plaintiff].” Defs.' Mem., Decl. of Yasmin A. Rosa (“Rosa Decl.”) ¶ 5. A search of records maintained by the OPM's EEO office, including “all EEO complaints, inquiries and non-jurisdiction records for 2015 and 2016, ” and “the EEO inbox” where email requests would have been located, “did not produce any record(s) of a David Johnson contacting EEO.” Rosa Decl. ¶ 6. Based on this search result, OPM “concluded that [Plaintiff] has not reached out to the EEO Office requesting FOIA information or assistance.” Id.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Dismissal of Parties and Claims

         The Court construes the Complaint as one raising claims under FOIA against EEOC and OPM. A claim under FOIA is against an agency. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B); Cooper v. Stewart, No. 11-5061, 2011 WL 6758484, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 15, 2011) (per curiam). Therefore, the Court dismisses Beth F. Cobert, Victoria A. Lipnic, and John Doe as defendants in this case, see Compl. ¶¶ 12-14, “because no cause of action exists that would ...


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