United States District Court, District of Columbia
TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court in this case, which was brought under the Freedom
of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552,
is Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss and for Summary
Judgment. See ECF No. 28
(“Motion”). For the reasons set forth below, the
Court will grant the Motion in its entirety.
Eric Jerome Hunter Mathis, incarcerated in a state prison in
Georgia and proceeding pro se, alleges in his
complaint that he has been “deprived of his lawful
property and rights as a United States citizen.” Compl.
¶ 3. Specifically, he alleges that the Department of
Justice (“DOJ”) is “holding [his] personal
and real property[, ] personal papers, childhood photos and
effect[s] not excluding trust fund accounts[, ] his patent
information, financial accounts (personal, business,
checking, co[r]porate, and escrow), ” id.
¶ 4, “inherited assets, ” id.
¶ 5, and benefits he accrued while “working two
nine to fives and managing [his] own brake repair shop,
” id. ¶ 6. He contends that DOJ and the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (the “FBI”) have
frozen his bank accounts. See id.
October 2015, Hunter Mathis began his quest for information
about his assets by submitting a request to the FBI under
FOIA. See id. ¶¶ 8, 13. DOJ and the FBI
allegedly “refused [his] request” and failed to
explain “why [his] accounts remain . . . frozen after
so much time has passed with no criminal or civil action in
the matter.” Id. ¶ 7. According to Hunter
Mathis, DOJ and the FBI not only denied his FOIA requests
improperly, see id. ¶¶ 7-9; Am. Compl.
¶ 12, but in so doing, also violated his rights under
the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution,
see Compl. ¶¶ 14, 16-18; Am. Compl.
¶¶ 19-22. He demands a declaratory judgment
“that the acts and omission[s] . . . described [in the
complaint] violated plaintiff[']s rights under the
Constitution, ” Compl. ¶ 20, and injunctive relief
“enjoin[ing] Defendant from withholding the information
requested, ” id. ¶ 21.
subsequent amended complaints reflect, Hunter Mathis then
expanded his search for information by allegedly directing
FOIA requests to several other entities: the Internal Revenue
Service (“IRS”), a component of the Department of
Treasury (“Treasury”), see 2d Am. Compl.
¶ 10, the Department of Defense (“DoD”),
see id. ¶¶ 7, 11; 3d Am. Compl.
¶¶ 20, 31, the Securities and Exchange Commission
(“SEC”), see 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶
17, 27, the United States District Court for the Middle
District of Georgia, see id. ¶¶ 18, 28,
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”),
see id. ¶¶ 19, 29, and the American Red
Cross, see id. ¶ 30. The Court is obliged to
construe a pro se litigant's pleadings
liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972). To this end, the Court construes Hunter Mathis's
various complaints collectively, and as raising FOIA claims
against each of these entities.
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss Hunter
Mathis's (1) constitutional claims; (2) claim against the
Middle District of Georgia; and (3) claim against the
American Red Cross.
Hunter Mathis's Constitutional Claims
Hunter Mathis alleges violations of his rights under the
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States
Constitution, see Compl. ¶¶ 14, 16-18; Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 19-22; 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 33, he
clarifies elsewhere that “this is not a 1983 suit
or civil rights complaint, ” Pl.'s 1st Opp'n
at 4; Pl.'s 2d Opp'n ¶ 26. In fact, the claims
he brings are grounded in FOIA, and it is well settled that
“FOIA does not offer a remedy for alleged violations of
constitutional rights arising from the handling of a FOIA
request.” Houser v. Church, 271 F.Supp.3d 197,
204 (D.D.C. 2017) (citing Johnson v. Exec. Office for
U.S. Attorneys, 310 F.3d 771, 777 (D.C. Cir. 2002)). The
Court therefore dismisses Hunter Mathis's constitutional
claims, which similarly arise from the processing of his FOIA
requests. See, e.g., Johnson, 310 F.3d at 777;
Sanchez-Alanis v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 270
F.Supp.3d 215, 219 (D.D.C. 2017).
Claim Against the Middle District of Georgia
Mathis asserts that the Middle District of Georgia
“refused to disclose the freezing of [his] accounts and
assets in 1996 or 2003.” 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 28. A
claim under FOIA may proceed only as against an agency of the
federal government. 5 U.S.C. §§ 551(1), 552(a);
see 5 U.S.C. § 552(f). The definition of
“agency” expressly excludes “the courts of
the United States.” 5 U.S.C. § 551(1)(B). Thus,
Hunter Mathis's FOIA claim against the Middle District of
Georgia must be dismissed. See Gaydos v. Mansmann,
No. 98-5002, 1998 WL 389104, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 13, 1998)
(per curiam); United States v. Choate, 102 Fed.Appx.
634, 635 (10th Cir. 2004).
Claim Against the American Red Cross
Mathis claims to have “donated over a billion
dollars” to the American Red Cross. 3d Am. Compl.
¶ 30. Despite such generosity, the American Red Cross
allegedly “refused plaintiff['s] request for
information” about his contributions. Id. A
threshold issue the Court must resolve to address this claim
is whether the American Red Cross is an “agency”
for the purpose of FOIA. Although the D.C. Circuit has not
addressed the issue, the Ninth Circuit concluded in Irwin
Memorial Blood Bank of S.F. Med. Soc'y v. Am. Nat'l
Red Cross, 640 F.2d 1051 (9th Cir. 1981) that it is not.
See id. at 1052, 1057. The Court finds that opinion
persuasive and similarly concludes that the American Red
Cross is not an “agency” for FOIA purposes. Thus,
the Court dismisses Hunter Mathis's FOIA claim against
the American Red Cross.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
Mathis's FOIA claims that survive Defendants' motion
to dismiss are directed at: (1) IRS, DoD, SEC, and SSA; and
(2) the FBI. The Court considers each in turn and concludes
that summary judgment must be granted in favor of each
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court must grant
summary judgment “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). “Summary judgment is appropriately granted when,
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-movants and drawing all reasonable inferences
accordingly, no reasonable jury could reach a verdict ...