United States District Court, District of Columbia
THE LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR 9/11 INQUIRY, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
CHRISTOPHER A. WRAY, et al., Defendants.
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
organizations and one individual seek an order requiring the
FBI to evaluate and report on certain evidence related to the
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In their view,
Congress directed the FBI to report on evidence that the 9/11
Commission did not consider. They believe the FBI violated
this mandate. The Government moves to dismiss for lack of
standing and on other grounds. The Court agrees that
Plaintiffs lack standing, so the Court will grant the
Government's motion and dismiss the case.
2002, Congress established the National Commission on
Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (“National
9/11 Commission”). First Am. Compl. ¶ 3, ECF No.
11. That Commission concluded that Osama bin Laden and other
Islamic extremists were responsible for the
attacks. Plaintiffs find this conclusion wanting.
They believe, for example, that “pre- placed”
explosives caused the World Trade Center buildings to
collapse. Id. ¶¶ 11, 33. They also suspect
“malfeasance” on the part of the United States
government. Id. ¶ 15.
plaintiff is the Lawyers' Committee for 9/11 Inquiry
(“Lawyers' Committee”). Id. ¶
10. Its mission is “to promote transparency and
accountability” about the events of September 11.
Id. It believes that family members of the victims
have a right to know the “full truth” of what
happened that day. Id. Another plaintiff is the
Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth
(“Architects”). Id. ¶ 13. It seeks
to educate the public about the “true reasons”
for the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.
Id. The final plaintiff is Robert McIlvaine.
Id. ¶ 15. He is the father of Bobby McIlvaine,
a victim of the attack on the World Trade Center.
relevant legal background starts with the National 9/11
Commission's 2004 report. Besides assigning
responsibility for the attacks, it made recommendations to
the FBI and other agencies on how to prevent future
attacks. Nine years later, Congress allotted $500,
000 “for a comprehensive review of the implementation
of the recommendations related to the [FBI] that were
proposed in the report issued by the [National 9/11
Commission].” Consolidated and Further Continuing
Appropriations Act, 2013, Pub. L. No. 113-6, 127 Stat. 198,
247 (2013). Plaintiffs believe that this provision
“imposed a mandatory duty” on the FBI to assess
and report on evidence that the National 9/11 Commission did
not consider. First Am. Compl. ¶ 7.
response to this legislation, the FBI Director formed a body
called the 9/11 Review Commission. See Mot. to
Dismiss Ex. 1 at 5 & n.1,  ECF No. 12-2. It released its own
report in 2015. Id. at 2. One chapter of that report
discussed some evidence that the National 9/11 Commission did
not consider. Id. at 102. But it ultimately
concluded that “no new information obtained since the .
. . 2004 report would change the [National 9/11
Commission's] findings regarding responsibilities for the
9/11 attacks.” Id. at 109.
allege that the Review Commission failed to “fully
comply” with the 2013 appropriations act. First Am.
Compl. ¶ 7. They acknowledge that the Review Commission
investigated some new evidence. Id. ¶ 28. But
they complain it “failed to assess and report to
Congress, as mandated, several other categories of
significant 9/11 related evidence known to the FBI.”
Id. ¶ 29. For Plaintiffs, full compliance means
that the FBI must report on the seven categories of evidence
that they list in their causes of action. Id. ¶
127. These categories include evidence “related to use
of pre-placed explosives” (Count I) and “evidence
regarding the arrest and investigation of the
‘high-fivers' observed and self-photographed
celebrating the attacks” (Count II). Id. at
11, 24. Plaintiffs bring their claims under the
Administrative Procedure Act and the mandamus statute, 28
U.S.C. § 1361. Id. ¶ 1.
III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal
courts to “actual cases or controversies.”
Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016).
One component of the case-or-controversy requirement is
standing to sue. Id. A plaintiff bears the burden of
showing that he has “(1) suffered an injury in fact,
(2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the
defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a
favorable judicial decision.” Id. At the
pleading stage, the plaintiff “must clearly allege
facts demonstrating each element.” Id.
(cleaned up). Courts grant plaintiffs the benefit of all
reasonable inferences from the allegations, but they will not
accept inferences that the facts do not support. Arpaio
v. Obama, 797 F.3d 11, 19 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
case involves informational standing and organizational
standing. The foundational case for informational standing is
FEC v. Akins, 524 U.S. 11 (1998). The Supreme Court
explained that a plaintiff suffers injury in fact when he
“fails to obtain information which must be publicly
disclosed pursuant to a statute.” Id. at 21.
The statute must “seek to protect [plaintiffs] from the
kind of harm they say they have suffered.” Id.
organization can assert standing on its own behalf
or on behalf of its members. EPIC v. U.S.
Dep't of Commerce, 928 F.3d 95, 100 (D.C. Cir.
2019). The former is “organizational standing”
and the latter is “associational standing.”
Id. An entity asserting organizational standing,
like an individual plaintiff, must show that it has
suffered injury traceable to the defendant and redressable by
a favorable judicial decision. Equal Rights Ctr. v. Post
Props., Inc., 633 F.3d 1136, 1138 (D.C. Cir. 2011).
Government moves to dismiss the First Amended Complaint based
on lack of standing and failure to state a claim.
See Mot. to Dismiss at 1-2, ECF No. 12. This motion
is ripe. Lack of standing is a basis for dismissal under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Commonwealth v.
U.S. Dep't of Educ., 340 F.Supp.3d 7, 18 (D.D.C.
2018). If dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court
cannot resolve the alternative arguments for dismissal under
Rule 12(b)(6). Id. at 18 & n.3.
contend that they all have informational standing and that
the Lawyers' Committee and Architects have organizational
standing. Pls.' Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss
(“Opp'n”) at 13, ECF No. 13. Neither
organization claims associational standing. See Id.
at 13, 18-25. The Court finds that Plaintiffs have not
suffered an informational injury and that their theories of
organizational standing also ...