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Blixseth v. United States Coast Guard

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 16, 2019

TIMOTHY BLIXSETH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES COAST GUARD, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Timothy Blixseth believes himself the victim of high-level government corruption. In the latest of his myriad Freedom of Information Act suits, he accuses the U.S. Coast Guard of failing to produce documents principally related to a 2010 stop of his yacht, Piano Bar, near San Pedro, California. The Coast Guard has produced only three unredacted records and avers that its search has otherwise come up empty. Although Blixseth believes that the search should have been more comprehensive, the Court concludes that the Coast Guard has acted above and beyond what is typically required. Its Motion for Summary Judgment will consequently be granted.

         I. Background

         According to Plaintiff, he submitted a FOIA request to the Coast Guard on April 17, 2018, which sought the following records:

1. All documents from the period of January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010 that refer or relate to Blixseth, Piano Bar, or Yellowstone Aviation & Marine; and
2. All emails from any and all of former U.S. [Coast Guard] Commandant Robert J. Papp, Jr.'s email accounts from the period of May 25, 2010 through December 31, 2010, referencing:
a. Piano Bar
b. Yellowstone
c. Yellowstone Aviation & Marine d. Blixseth.

ECF No. 1 (Complaint), ¶ 9. He alleges that “[t]he records relate to Coast Guard actions taken against Plaintiff, as part of a coordinated and corrupt effort by high-level Department of Justice officials, along with the Coast Guard and other agencies, to intimidate Plaintiff from further pursuing his legal rights to continue challenging a bankruptcy reorganization plan in Montana.” Id., ¶ 2. The Court notes that such conspiratorial allegations are consistent with those raised in other suits here. See, e.g., Shaw v. DOJ, No. 18-593, ECF No. 32-1 (Declaration of Timothy Blixseth), ¶ 22 (alleging that his adversaries “enlisted friends in the highest levels of the Government to intimidate [him] as well as to cause [him] financial harm”).

         In October 2018, the Coast Guard responded that it had performed a comprehensive search without locating any responsive documents. Id., ¶ 12. In appealing this result administratively, Plaintiff's letter explained:

In 2010, Mr. Blixseth's yacht1, Piano Bar, was intercepted by the Coast Guard. Under its own policies, the Coast Guard is required to create and maintain all investigative files for any such activities, and as such, there must be responsive investigative records maintained by the Coast Guard in response to this Request. Moreover, the Coast Guard failed to search the records of several Coast Guard components, including but not limited to the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance . . . .

Id., ¶ 13.

         After receiving no response, Blixseth filed this action. The Coast Guard, in turn, renewed its search and located one document, which it produced to him in full. (Two other documents ultimately delivered to him are discussed in Section III.B, infra.) It now moves to dismiss or for summary judgment, contending that its search was ...


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