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Chase v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 13, 2018

DENNIS CHASE, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In a March 15, 2018, Opinion, this Court granted summary judgment to the Government Defendants named in Plaintiff Dennis Chase's pro se Freedom of Information Act suit. In doing so, the Court determined that the Government's search for documents related to Chase was adequate and that it had properly applied FOIA exemptions to its withholdings. Unhappy with this outcome, Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider its Opinion, renewing his previous arguments and adding that he should be granted a waiver of his court filing fee. As the arguments and evidence presented are neither new nor persuasive, the Court will deny Chase's Motion.

         I. Background

         As background of this case is set forth in greater detail in the Court's previous Opinion, see Chase v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 301 F.Supp.3d 146 (D.D.C. 2018), an abridged summary of the dispute will suffice here.

         This case arose as a result of Plaintiff's sending FOIA requests to the U.S. Marshals Service and the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, beginning in November 2015, for all records concerning his detention, arrest, booking, and criminal prosecution for transportation and possession of child pornography in 2011. See ECF No. 1 (Complaint), Exhs. A (USMS FOIA Request); E (EOUSA FOIA Request). The requests unfortunately fell victim to the bureaucratic process, resulting in multiple delays caused by the two agencies. Growing impatient with the lack of movement, Plaintiff filed his original Complaint here on February 23, 2017. Reading the tea leaves, the named agencies then conducted a search for relevant documents and have since released 430 pages to Plaintiff, 15 of which were partially redacted. See ECF Nos. 28-2 (Declaration of Princina Stone), ¶ 13; 28-9 (Declaration of William E. Bordley), ¶ 7. EOUSA also referred approximately 1, 216 pages of records to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its review and direct response to Plaintiff. See ECF No. 28-11 (Declaration of David M. Hardy), ¶ 5. Thereafter, the Bureau contacted Chase to notify him that it had received the records from EOUSA and to inform him of the estimated total cost for processing his request. After Plaintiff unsuccessfully sought a fee waiver, he added the FBI as a Defendant in the lawsuit. Both sides subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

         This Court granted summary judgment to Defendants on March 15, 2018. See ECF No. 35 (Order). The Court's Opinion concluded that they had sufficiently complied with FOIA's dictates by both completing an adequate search for relevant documents and invoking valid exemptions for withholding the remaining documents and portions of documents. Chase, 301 F.Supp.3d at 154, 156. The Court separately analyzed whether any segregability issues existed, ultimately concluding that none did. Id. at 156. Plaintiff's arguments for a waiver of the FBI's duplication fee similarly failed. Id. at 158. The Court, therefore, found that Defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all counts. Id. at 159.

         On October 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration. As the Motion is untimely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), the Court will interpret it under Rule 60(b).

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) allows a court to relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.

         A Rule 60(b) motion need only be filed “within a reasonable time, ” which, in certain cir cu m stanc es, means, “n o m o re t h an a year after t he entr y of the jud gment.” Fed. R. C i v . P . 60(c)(1). The party seeking relief under Rule 60(b) bears the burden of showing that he is entitled to relief. Jarvis v. Parker, 13 F.Supp.3d 74, 77 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Norris v. Salazar, 277 F.R.D. 22, 25 (D.D.C. 2011)).

         While Plaintiff's Motion never cites any specific subpart of Rule 60(b), the Court recognizes Chase is a pro se plaintiff and will thus evaluate the Motion under subsection (b)(6), which is the only one that could apply. Courts have typically interpreted that subsection to apply only “to extraordinary situations” and note that it “should be only sparingly used.” Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 841 F.2d 1133, 1140 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (quoting Ackermann v. United States, 340 U.S. 193, 202 (1950)). Plaintiff explains that he was hospitalized and diagnosed with a potentially fatal condition, such that he could not timely file under the more lenient Rule 59(e). The Court will thus give Chase some leeway in its analysis.

         III. Analysis

         In seeking reconsideration, Chase advances five theories: (1) he should be given grand-jury materials because they have been previously produced; (2) USMS should not have redacted the documents it did disclose; (3) USMS's search was insufficient; (4) Defendants acted in bad faith, and (5) he should be granted a waiver of his court filing fee. ...


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