NATIONAL VETERANS LEGAL SERVICES PROGRAM et al v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
REPLY to opposition to motion re #11 MOTION to Dismiss Or, In The Alternative MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. (Attachments: #1 Declaration Second Garcia)(Nebeker, William)
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 1 of 9
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
NATIONAL VETERANS LEGAL
SERVICES PROGRAM, et al.,
) Civil Action No. 16-745 ESH
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
REPLY IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO DISMISS OR,
IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Defendant has filed a Motion To Dismiss Or, In The Alternative,
For Summary Judgment.
Plaintiffs’ Opposition does not provide any
proper basis to deny the motion.
Plaintiffs assert that this action should not be dismissed under
the “first to file rule” because, in Plaintiffs’ opinion, the Fisher
case1 “is nothing like this one.”
Plaintiffs’ Opposition To The
Government’s Motion To Dismiss (“Pl. Opp.”) at 2.
In fact, as
Plaintiffs have pointed out, the successful motion in the earlier
District Court action was adopted largely verbatim in pressing
Defendant’s dispositive motion here.
(See Pl. Opp. at 1 and Exh.
That is precisely because this case and the Fisher the case are
Fisher v. United States, No. 15-1575C (Fed. Cl).
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 2 of 9
A non-exhaustive list of issues common to both cases
would include the following:
What did the government charge PACER users in the last
Which PACER users were among those who were charged
for the PACER downloads, given the avenues to receive
What should the government have charged the PACER
users for PACER downloads under the E-Government Act?
If PACER users were overcharged, were they required
to first present the overcharges to the PACER Service
Center within 90 days, as they agreed?
If PACER users were overcharged, by what amount were
Which PACER users over the past six years have
presented their claimed overcharges to the PACER
Service Center, as they agreed to do?
Of the PACER users that presented their claims to the
PACER Service Center, which were denied, and which
Whether the Plaintiffs (who have relied on the
E-Government Act) have alleged a statutory remedy
that supports an illegal exaction claim?
See Defendant’s Statement Of Material Facts As To Which There Is No
Genuine Issue (“Def. SMF”) ¶¶ 1-6; Def. Exhibit 2 (Fisher Complaint)
(ECF No. 11-1); Pl. Exhibit A (Fisher Motion To Dismiss) (ECF No.
In addition, if, as Plaintiffs appear to allege, the
government is only able to charge for the actual cost of providing
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 3 of 9
the information downloaded through PACER, this Court would have to
address how much those costs would be affected by any change in what
can be collected for PACER Docket sheets as a result of a judgment
in the Fisher case.
This confluence of issues, despite Plaintiffs’
bald assertion to the contrary (see Pl. Opp. at 3) should make clear
that both actions involve the same facts.
Plaintiffs also assert that the parties are different in both
Pl. Opp. at 3.
Perhaps the named parties currently
differ, but if, as Plaintiffs seek, the class includes all PACER users
who paid a fee during the relevant period and do not opt out, it would,
of necessity, include Mr. Fisher unless and until he opts out.
Fisher Amended Complaint (Pl. Exhibit C, ECF No. 15-3), ¶¶ 7, 30-32,
Plaintiffs argue that the Fisher class action involves a
narrower issue, an overcharge for printing the PACER Docket sheets
in excess of 850 characters.
Pl. Opp. at 2.
Plaintiffs do not
assert that the potential members of the class in this case (all who
“have paid fees for the use of PACER within the past six years,
excluding class counsel and agencies of the federal government”, see
Complaint, ¶ 27, have not, within that six-year period, downloaded
at least one PACER Docket sheet with a caption over 850 characters,
the basis for at least part of the claims in Fisher.
See Pl. Opp.
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 4 of 9
Thus, likely every member of this purported class would also
be a potential member of the Fisher class action, if certified.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs who downloaded a PACER Docket Sheet of
typical length would be allowed, under Plaintiffs’ theory, to proceed
in two separate federal court actions to recover for alleged
overbilling for the same docket sheet(s).
This is not likely to lead
to the efficiency sought in class action litigation.
See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 23(b).
Plaintiffs argue that the cases are completely distinct and that
they do not need to first seek to resolve their billing issues with
the PACER Service Center, despite their admitted agreement to do so
(see Def. SMF, ¶ 6),3 because they are not suing over a “billing
Pl Opp. at 2-4.
First, the agreement was “to alert the
PACER Service Center to any errors in billing within 90 days of the
date of the bill.”
Def. SMF, ¶ 6.
Plaintiffs’ effort to couch their
claim that they were overcharged on the bills as something other than
For comparison purposes, counsel undertook to count the
characters in the PACER caption from this case (copy attached), a
relatively typical caption. The number of characters counted was
1476. Counsel notes that these are the characters printed in a PACER
docket sheet. The calculation of the cost for a Docket sheet is based
on the bytes of data extracted. See Fisher Amended Complaint, ¶ 23.
Plaintiffs have not addressed the facts proffered by Defendant
in Defendant’s Statement of Material Facts As To Which There Is No
Genuine Issue. Accordingly, as described further below, those facts
should be deemed admitted. See Local Civ. R. 7(h)(1).
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 5 of 9
an “error in billing” is weak, at best.
Consider, for example, their
analogy to a patron in a restaurant over-billed for wine.
Would not that patron feel that, whatever the reason he was
overcharged for the wine, it was an “error”?
And given that the
“error” was on the “bill”, would it not be readily, and accurately,
described by any patron as an “error in billing”?
The PACER Service
Center addresses and resolves many issues brought to it, even if those
issues can easily be described as not even truly “errors.”
would typically refer to such resolutions, where despite the absence
of an actual error on the part of the PACER system, a user is
nonetheless still provided a refund, as a “courtesy.”
Declaration of Anna Garcia, ¶¶3-11.
Plaintiffs’ effort to describe
the bills that they have received (and paid) in excess of what is
allowable, would seem to fit nicely into the category of an claim
of an “error in billing.”
See Webster’s II New Riverside University
Dictionary (1994) Definition of “error” (“1. An act, assertion, or
belief that unintentionally deviates from what is correctly, right,
2. The state of having false knowledge. 3. A deviation from
an accepted code of behavior. 4. A mistake.
between a computed or measured value and a correct value...”).
Plaintiffs have made no effort to address the claim made in
support of Defendant’s dispositive motion that they have not alleged
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 6 of 9
a statutory remedy that supports an illegal extraction claim.
Mem. at 15-19.
Arguments not made in the District Court are deemed
See F.T.C. v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.,
778 F.3d 142, 158 n.5 (D.C. Cir. 2015); Marymount Hosp., Inc. v.
Shalala, 19 F.3d 658 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
See also Zolfaghari v.
Sheikholeslami, 943 F.2d 451 (4th Cir. 1991).
Indeed, as the Court
of Appeals has reiterated this general proposition that issues not
raised before the district court are usually considered to have been
waived on appeal.
Kingman Park Civil Association v. Williams, 348
F.3d 1033, 1039 (D.C. Cir. 2003); see also Whelan v. Abell, 48 F.3d
1247, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (citing Kattan by Thomas v. District of
Columbia, 995 F.2d 274, 276 (D.C. Cir. 1993)); Yee v. City of
Escondito, 503 U.S. 519, 533 (1992).
Here, Plaintiff does not
contest either the factual assertions made by the Defendant or the
argument that Plaintiffs have failed to identify an applicable
statute to support their unlawful exaction claim .
Because Plaintiff has failed to respond properly to Defendant’s
Statement of Material Facts with any citation to record evidence,
in contravention of Local Civil Rule 7(h)(1), the Court may treat
the proffered statements as established for purposes of summary
See Local Civ. R. 7(h); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); McCauley
v. Salazar, 38 F.Supp.3d 35, 38-39 (D.D.C. 2014).
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 7 of 9
In McCauley, the Court properly observed:
Under Rule 56(a), “the court shall grant summary
judgment” where “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) (emphasis added).
The court must “state on the record the reasons for
granting or denying the motion.” Id. A nonmoving party’s
complete failure to come forward with evidence to
demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material
fact constitutes a “reason” for the grant of summary
judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Grimes v.
District of Columbia, 923 F.Supp.2d 196, 198 (D.D.C.
McCauley v. Salazar, 38 F.Supp.3d at 38-39; see also Local Civ. R.
Given that Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate the
existence of a genuine dispute of material fact or to meaningfully
contest Defendant’s motion, Defendant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law and the Court should grant summary judgment to
See id.; Bruder v. Chu, 953 F. Supp. 2d 234, 236 (D.D.C.
For these reasons, and those previously set forth in support
of Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss Or, In The Alternative, For Summary
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 8 of 9
Judgment, this action should be dismissed or summary judgment entered
in favor of Defendant.
CHANNING D. PHILLIPS, DC Bar #415793
United States Attorney
DANIEL F. VAN HORN, DC Bar #924092
Chief, Civil Division
W. MARK NEBEKER, DC Bar #396739
Assistant United States Attorney
555 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Case 1:16-cv-00745-ESH Document 20 Filed 08/16/16 Page 9 of 9
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I HEREBY CERTIFY that service of the foregoing Reply In Support
Of Motion To Dismiss Or, In The Alternative, For Summary Judgment,
has been made through the Court’s electronic transmission facilities
on this 16th day of August, 2016.
W. MARK NEBEKER, DC Bar #396739
Assistant United States Attorney
555 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
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