Haley v. SSA
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Roger W Titus on 6/13/2013. (c/m 6/13/2013 ns)(nss, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
DONOVAN L. HALEY,
* Civil Action No. RWT-12-3086
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, *
Donovan L. Haley (“Haley”) is an inmate housed in Jamestown, California. On October
18, 2012, the Court received for filing his complaint against the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). ECF No. 1. Haley claims that SSA failed to properly respond to his Freedom of
Information Act (“FOIA”) requests for documents and seeks review in this Court pursuant to 5
U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B), which provides a remedy under FOIA for filing a complaint to enjoin a
federal agency from improperly withholding records. Id.
Pending is Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 9. The Court will dispense with a
hearing. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below, the Court will, by separate Order,
grant Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 9.
Haley indicates that on June 1, 2012, he sent a FOIA request to SSA requesting all
documents relating to his mental health status and condition listed under his social security
number between January 1, 1998, and January 1, 2012. He also sought all documents relating
to supplemental security income benefits paid under his social security number during that time.
On July 1, 2012, and August 1, 2012, having received no reply to his inquiries, Plaintiff sent
additional letters requesting the same information. Dawn Wiggins, Freedom of Information
Officer for the Office of Privacy and Disclosure of the Social Security Administration, avers
that the agency has no record of Plaintiff filing a FOIA request or any administrative appeal.
ECF No. 9, Ex. 1.
Standard of Review
The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) 6) is to test the
sufficiency of the plaintiff’s complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243
(4th Cir. 1999).
The dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
does not require defendant to establish “beyond doubt” that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in
support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 561-62 (2007). The court need not accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene
v. Charles County Comm’rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604
F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
In reviewing a complaint in light of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc.
12(b)(6), the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes
the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
See Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005); Ibarra v. United States,
120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997); Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir.
1993). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a “short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Migdal v. Rowe Price2
Fleming Int’l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A.,
534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002) (stating that a complaint need only satisfy the “simplified pleading
standard” of Rule 8(a)).
The Supreme Court of the United States explained that a “plaintiff’s obligation to
provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions,
and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted).
Nonetheless, the complaint
does not need “detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. Instead, “once
a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent
with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563. Thus, a complaint need only state “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.
To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, at
678. “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the
pleader is entitled to relief.’” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
FOIA provides a mechanism for citizens to obtain documents from federal agencies, and
grants the federal district courts jurisdiction to review agency compliance with citizens’
requests. To make requests under FOIA, a citizen must follow the agency’s published
regulations regarding procedures to be followed. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A); Pollack v.
Department of Justice, 49 F.3d 115, 118 (4th Cir. 1995). Before judicial review of compliance
can occur, citizens must exhaust administrative agency procedures.
See 5 U.S.C. §
552(a)(6)(C); Oglesby v. U.S. Department of the Army, 920 F.2d 57, 65 (D.C. Cir .1990); see
also Gasparutti v. United States, 22 F. Supp. 2d 1114, 1116 (C.D. Cal. 1998) (“In order to
maintain a judicial action under FOIA, a plaintiff must first request documents from an
administrative agency and if his request for documents is refused must exhaust his
administrative remedies before filing a court action.”).
After careful review of the filings, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate
that he has exhausted his administrative remedies as to his FOIA request. Indeed, there is no
evidence that Plaintiff even filed a request for documents with a federal agency. Accordingly, a
separate Order shall be entered dismissing Plaintiff’s Complaint without prejudice for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies.
Date: June 13, 2013
Roger W. Titus
United States District Judge
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