United States District Court, District of Columbia
TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Saleem El Amin, a federal inmate, requested his education
records from his prison. Several months later, when he had
not received those records, he filed the instant pro
se complaint under the Privacy Act. The government then
provided the records to him and moved to dismiss the
complaint, arguing that the action was moot. El Amin opposed
the motion but has not contested the government's
representation that he has now received all the records he
sought. The Court will therefore dismiss the complaint as
moot and, for the reasons explained below, deny El Amin's
motion for costs without prejudice.
requested his education records through an email addressed to
a “Ms. Workman” in his prison's education
department. ECF No. 1 Ex. 1. His email read, in its entirety,
“I would like to view my education records and receive
a copy for [my] files.” Id. He subsequently
filed an administrative claim with the Federal Bureau of
Prisons (BOP) under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2671 et seq., alleging that the BOP violated
the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, by failing to provide
him his records. ECF No. 1 App'x. The BOP denied his
claim because the Privacy Act is a federal statute, and the
Federal Tort Claims Act concerns only the government's
liability under state law. Id.
March 2018, El Amin brought this suit under the Privacy Act,
alleging that the BOP had violated his right to access his
education records. ECF No. 1 at 3. In addition to access to
the records themselves, he requested $1, 000 in damages from
the United States. Id. at 4. In November 2018,
before the government appeared, El Amin moved for it to pay
his litigation costs. ECF No. 6. In May 2019, after the
government appeared but before it responded to El Amin's
complaint, it provided El Amin all the relevant records.
See ECF No. 14 Ex. A. The next month, it moved to
dismiss his complaint, arguing that the case was
moot. ECF No. 14. at 1-2. In El Amin's
opposition to the motion to dismiss, he does not contest that
he received all the records he requested. See ECF
No. 16 at 2. He does, however, renew his demand for $1, 000
in damages. Id.
Government's Motion to Dismiss
Article III courts have jurisdiction only over “actual
cases or controversies.” Indian River Cty. v.
Rogoff, 254 F.Supp.3d 15, 18 (D.D.C. 2017). Mootness
deprives courts of subject-matter jurisdiction, because there
is no remaining “actual case or controversy” to
adjudicate. See Conservation Force, Inc. v. Jewell,
733 F.3d 1200, 1204 (D.C. Cir. 2013). As a result, a
“motion to dismiss for mootness is properly brought
under Rule 12(b)(1) because mootness itself deprives the
court of jurisdiction.” Indian River Cty., 254
F.Supp.3d at 18. A request for records under the Privacy Act
is moot once a plaintiff receives “all the records
responsive to his requests that are in the [agency's]
possession, custody, or control.” Crummey v. Social
Sec. Admin., 794 F.Supp.2d 46, 60 (D.D.C. 2011). In
considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction under 12(b)(1), “a court may consider
material other than the allegations of the complaint in
determining whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case, as
long as it still accepts the factual allegations in the
complaint as true.” W.Va. Highlands Conservancy v.
Johnson, 540 F.Supp.2d 125, 133 (D.D.C. 2008). Because
El Amin is proceeding pro se, the Court must
construe his filings liberally. Cunningham v. Dep't
of Justice, 40 F.Supp.3d 71, 82 (D.D.C. 2014).
received his Inmate Education Data Transcript-that is, his
education records in the custody of the BOP-in April 2019.
ECF No. 14-1 Exs. A, B. The government contends that these
are all the records El Amin requested, ECF No. 14 at 1, and
El Amin does not argue otherwise, ECF No. 16 at 2. The Court
therefore treats this argument as conceded. Inst. for
Policy Studies v. CIA, 246 F.R.D. 380, 386 n.5 (D.D.C.
2007) (“[W]here a party files an opposition to a motion
and addresses only certain arguments raised by the movant,
this court routinely treats the unaddressed arguments as
conceded pursuant to Local Rule 7(b).”). Because El
Amin has received all the records at issue, his request for
them is moot, and the Court will dismiss the complaint for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
El Amin's Motion for Costs
after filing his complaint, El Amin moved for the government
to “pay litigation cost[s] for invasion of privacy,
” citing 5 U.S.C. § 552a(g)(2)(B). ECF No. 6 at 2.
He requested $300. Id. The Privacy Act authorizes
the Court to award a plaintiff litigation costs in connection
with a claim, such as El Amin's, that the government
failed to comply with an individual request to access a
record, if the plaintiff has “substantially
prevailed” in the litigation. 5 U.S.C. §
552a(g)(3)(B). But on this record, the Court must deny his
motion without prejudice. Even assuming that El Amin has
“substantially prevailed” in this case,
plaintiff must provide documentation of his litigation costs
to recover them. Blazy v. Tenet, 194 F.3d 90, 97-98
(D.C. Cir. 1999). El Amin has provided no such documentation.
See ECF No. 6 at 2 (requesting $300, without further
explanation); ECF No. 16 at 2 (requesting “court
fees” without specifying an amount). For these reasons,
the Court will deny El Amin's motion for costs without
these reasons, the Court will grant the government's
Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14) and deny without prejudice El
Amin's Motion to Pay ...