United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Inmate Hector Sandoval filed Freedom of Information Act
requests with several law enforcement agencies seeking
documents he believes would assist in proving his innocence.
After the agencies processed the requests, Sandoval filed
suit. He claims that the agencies failed to produce all the
records he sought and to correct allegedly inaccurate records
in their possession. The agencies have now moved for
dismissal or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The
Court will grant summary judgment for the agencies.
2002, Mr. Sandoval was convicted by a jury of kidnapping and
carrying a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime.
See Sandoval v. United States, 2007 WL 2937124, at
*1 (C.D. Ill. Sept. 26, 2007), aff'd, 574 F.3d
847 (7th Cir. 2007). On February 28, 2016, he submitted a
request under the Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”) to three agencies-the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (“FBI”), the Bureau of Prisons
(“BOP”), and the U.S. Attorney's Office for
the Central District of Illinois (“U.S. Attorney's
Office”)-seeking records and documents related to his
criminal investigation and prosecution. See Compl.
¶¶ 12-14. Sandoval believed these documents would
prove his innocence in his criminal case. Id.
Sandoval also submitted a Privacy Act request to the same
agencies, requesting that any records the agencies maintained
be corrected to reflect Sandoval's alleged innocence of
his convicted conduct. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
(“Defs.' MTD”) at 20.
responded to Sandoval's requests in April 2016, notifying
him that its search of the Central Records System had not
uncovered any responsive records. Defs.' MTD, Declaration
of David M. Hardy (“Hardy Decl.”), at 16-17. The
BOP, meanwhile, informed Sandoval in September 2016 that its
search yielded only Sandoval's presentence report, which
Sandoval could review under supervision at the correctional
center. Id., Declaration of Ronald L. Rodgers
(“Rodgers Decl.”), at 9. And for its part, the
U.S. Attorney's Office advised Sandoval in June 2016 that
its search had come up empty. Defs.' MTD, Declaration of
Princina Stone (“Stone Decl.”) at 18. Sandoval
did not administratively appeal the FBI and BOP responses.
See Hardy Decl. at 5; Rodgers Decl. at 13. He did,
however, appeal the U.S. Attorney's Office's
response, which was affirmed. See Stone Decl. at 24.
March 2017, Sandoval, proceeding pro se, filed suit
against the three agencies in relation to his request. He
also named as defendants the Department of Justice and the
Executive Office of the United States Attorneys
(“EOUSA”), the DOJ liaison office to the various
United States Attorney's offices nationwide. His
complaint alleges that the agencies failed to produce
responsive records under FOIA and the Privacy Act and failed
to correct the records as the Privacy Act requires. Sandoval
also sought damages related to the agencies' alleged
misconduct in maintaining inaccurate records and
“framing Sandoval for the crimes he never
committed.” Compl. at 27. After the complaint was
filed, the U.S. Attorney's Office modified its search and
provided Sandoval with 101 responsive pages in August 2017,
one page more than the maximum Sandoval could receive without
incurring additional fees, which he declined to do. Stone
Decl. at 4-5. The government thereafter filed a motion for
dismissal or, alternatively, summary judgment. Sandoval filed
an opposition, and the motion is now ripe for resolution.
Motion to Dismiss
evaluating a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or
12(b)(6), a court must “treat a complaint's factual
allegations as true . . . and must grant a plaintiff
‘the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from
the facts alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air
Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000)
(internal citations omitted), quoting Schuler v. United
States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979); see also
Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139
(D.C. Cir. 2011). Nevertheless, a court need not accept
inferences drawn by the plaintiff that are unsupported by
facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the court accept a
plaintiff's legal conclusions. Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). When
reviewing a challenge pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the court
may consider documents outside the pleadings to assure itself
that it has jurisdiction. See Land v. Dollar, 330
U.S. 731, 735 n. 4 (1947); Haase v. Sessions, 835
F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). In contrast, a court may
ordinarily consider only “the facts alleged in the
complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by
reference in the complaint and matters about which the Court
may take judicial notice.” Gustave-Schmidt v.
Chao, 226 F.Supp.2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002).
Motion for Summary Judgment
FOIA case, a district court reviews the agency's
decisions de novo and “the burden is on the
agency to sustain its action.” 5 U.S.C. §
552(a)(4)(B); Military Audit Project v. Casey, 656
F.2d 724, 738 (D.C. Cir. 1981). “[T]he vast majority of
FOIA cases can be resolved on summary judgment.”
Brayton v. Office of U.S. Trade Rep., 641 F.3d 521,
527 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Summary judgment is appropriate
“if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
cases, “[s]ummary judgment may be granted on the basis
of agency affidavits” when those affidavits
“contain reasonable specificity of detail rather than
merely conclusory statements” and when “they are
not called into question by contradictory evidence in the
record or by evidence of agency bad faith.”
Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Secret Serv., 726 F.3d
208, 215 (D.C. Cir. 2013), quoting Consumer Fed'n of
Am. v. Dep't of Agric., 455 F.3d 283, 287 (D.C. Cir.
2006). However, a plaintiff cannot rebut the good-faith
presumption afforded to an agency's supporting affidavits
through “purely speculative claims about the existence
and discoverability of other documents.” SafeCard
Servs., Inc. v. SEC, 926 F.2d 1197, 1200 (D.C. Cir.
1991), quoting Ground Saucer Watch, Inc. v. CIA, 692
F.2d 770, 771 (D.C. Cir. 1981). Similarly, in a Privacy Act
case, the court may rely on agency affidavits or declarations
to enter summary judgment. See Chambers v. U.S. Dep't
of the Interior, 568 F.3d 998, 1003 (D.C. Cir. 2009).
Plaintiff's FOIA and Privacy Act Claims ...