United States District Court, District of Columbia
RONALD L. LEGG, Plaintiff,
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY et al., Defendants.
S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge.
action filed pro se, Plaintiff has sued WMATA and
Assistant General Counsel Emily Woodward Deutsch under the
Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C.
§ 552, challenging the Washington Metropolitan Area
Transit Authority's (“WMATA”) denial of his
request for records pertaining to a third-party individual.
the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted (ECF No. 8). Defendants
contend that jurisdiction is lacking because WMATA is not
subject to the federal FOIA. Defendants also contend that
Plaintiff has failed to state a claim because he has neither
perfected his request with WMATA nor exhausted his
administrative remedies under its Public Access to Records
Policy (“PARP”). For the reasons explained below,
the court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over Plaintiff's claims. Consequently, this case will be
dismissed without prejudice.
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They
possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial
decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (internal citations
omitted). “Subject-matter jurisdiction can never be
waived or forfeited” because it “goes to the
foundation of the court's power to resolve a case.”
Gonzalez v. Thaler, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 641, 648
(2012); Doe ex rel. Fein v. District of Columbia, 93
F.3d 861, 871 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Before proceeding to the
merits of a claim, a court must satisfy itself that it has
subject-matter jurisdiction to consider the claim. See
Brown v. Jewell, 134 F.Supp.3d 170, 176 (D.D.C. 2015)
(courts “‘have an independent obligation to
determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in
the absence of a challenge from any party'”)
(quoting Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500,
514 (2006)). When a defendant files a motion to dismiss a
complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence. See Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); Shekoyan v.
Sibley Int'l Corp., 217 F.Supp.2d 59, 63 (D.D.C.
provides a ‘statutory right of public access to
documents and records' held by federal government
agencies.” Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics
in Washington v. DOJ, 602 F.Supp.2d 121, 123 (D.D.C.
2009) (quoting Pratt v. Webster, 673 F.2d 408, 413
(D.C. Cir. 1982)). FOIA confers jurisdiction in the district
courts only “to enjoin the agency from withholding
agency records and to order the production of any agency
records improperly withheld from the complainant.” 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B); see McGehee v. CIA, 697
F.2d 1095, 1105 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (“[F]ederal
jurisdiction is dependent upon a showing that an agency has
(1) improperly; (2) withheld; (3) agency records. Judicial
authority to devise remedies and enjoin agencies can only be
invoked, under the jurisdictional grant conferred by §
552, if the agency has contravened all three components of
this obligation.”) (quoting Kissinger v. Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press, 445 U.S. 136, 150
(1980) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
defines an “agency” as any “establishment
in the executive branch of the Government[.]”
Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Secret Serv., 726 F.3d
208, 224 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (quoting 5 U.S.C. §
552(f)(1)). That definition includes “any executive
department, military department, Government corporation,
Government controlled corporation, or other establishment in
the executive branch of the Government . . ., or any
independent regulatory agency[, ]” 5 U.S.C. §
552(f)(1), all of which are further defined in §§
101-105 of Title 5. In contrast, “Virginia, Maryland,
and the District of Columbia [with Congress'
authorization] created WMATA, by interstate compact, to plan,
finance, develop, and operate a mass transit system to serve
the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.” KiSKA
Const. Corp.-U.S.A. v. Washington Metro. Area Transit
Auth., 167 F.3d 608, 609 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Although
WMATA has a federal component because of Congress'
oversight of matters pertaining to the District of Columbia,
see id., Plaintiff has not cited, and the court has
not found, any authority that includes WMATA in FOIA's
definition of an executive-branch agency. Therefore,
Plaintiff's recourse lies, if at all, under the
foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss this
case under Rule 12(b)(1) is granted. A separate order
accompanies this memorandum opinion.
 Because Plaintiff has not exhausted
his administrative remedies under WMATA's PARP and
obtained a final decision, see Defs.' Mem. at
2-4 (ECF No. 8-1), it is unclear from this record (and
WMATA's website) whether a dissatisfied requester may
seek review of WMATA's decision and, if so, where. The
dismissal of this case without prejudice has no preclusive
effect on Plaintiff's ability to pursue any ...