Gray v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
MEMORANDUM OPINION (c/m to Plaintiff 2/8/17 sat). Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 2/8/2017. (sat, Chambers)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
Civil Action No. DKC 16-1792
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA
Presently pending and ready for resolution is a motion to
dismiss filed by Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit
Authority (“Defendant” or “WMATA”).
(ECF No. 6).
have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being
Local Rule 105.6.
For the following reasons,
the motion to dismiss will be granted.
employees, Plaintiff alleges that he was unlawfully pulled over
by members of a police unit operated by WMATA called the Metro
Transit Police Department (“Transit Police”) on July 30, 2013.
See Second Amended Complaint at 3-4, Gray v. Sarles, No. DKC-142939 (D.Md. May 9, 2016), ECF No. 25.
Plaintiff contends that
the Transit Police officers who pulled him over were acting
outside the geographic and legal scope of their authority at the
time of the stop.
seeking information on the Transit Police officers involved to
WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles on April 29, 2014.
responded on May 15, stating that the incident was “undergoing
investigation within the [Transit Police]” and that he would
contact Plaintiff when the investigation was complete and the
results were available.
(ECF No. 8-1, at 1).
to Mr. Gaddis on July 24 (id. at 2), but he never received more
information from WMATA about the internal investigation (ECF No.
1, at 3).
On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed his suit against Mr.
Sarles and three unnamed officers from the 2013 Stop, alleging
violations of 18 U.S.C. § 241, 18 U.S.C. § 242, 42 U.S.C. §
14141, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
On July 6, 2015, the court
dismissed the case against Mr. Sarles, finding that he had been
sued in his official capacity and that, in that capacity, he was
immune from suits for torts committed by Transit Police officers
performing governmental functions.
Gray v. Sarles, No. DKC-14-
2939, 2015 WL 4092455, at *2-4 (D.Md. July 6, 2015).
Plaintiff had failed to name or serve any other defendants in
that case, the court also ordered Plaintiff to show cause why
the case should not be dismissed.
Id. at *3-4.
On August 5, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a request to WMATA
Provisions § 4-101, et seq., seeking records including: (1) the
traffic stop; (2) the identity of the responding supervisor for
that stop; (3) the identity of the dispatch person who received
a call he had made during the stop; (4) the findings of the
investigation that Deputy Chief Gaddis had referenced; (5) a
copy of the Transit Police jurisdiction policy; (6) “any logs
WMATA communications regarding the traffic stop.
(ECF No. 8-1,
Plaintiff’s request and explaining that the request would be
processed under the Public Access to Records Policy (“PARP”), a
public records law modeled after the Freedom of Information Act
(“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and applicable to WMATA.
(Id. at 6).
Defendant’s letter notified Plaintiff that: (1) he needed to
submit a notarized request before any records could be released;
(2) certain information was exempt from disclosure and would be
redacted; and (3) it would charge him a fee for any staff time
spent beyond the first two hours and any copying beyond the
first 100 pages.
(Id. at 7).
Plaintiff responded on September
(Id. at 9).
On October 23, Defendant responded to Plaintiff’s formal
September 3 request, indicating it had records responsive to
each of Plaintiff’s inquiries that would be “releasable subject
to redaction” for various PARP exemptions.
(ECF No. 6-2, at 3).
It also told Plaintiff that the estimated cost of the records
would be $252.00 (id. at 4) and that he would have to pay before
WMATA would retrieve the records.
See PARP 8.9 (WMATA may seek
payment in advance if it has estimated that the fees will exceed
$250.00); see also 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(v) (same rule under
The letter concluded by explaining that PARP policy was
to consider requests withdrawn if payment or clarification was
not received within 30 business days, giving Plaintiff until
December 8 to respond or submit payment.
(ECF No. 6-2, at 4).
On December 11, Defendant sent a letter notifying Plaintiff that
it had not received any payment or reply and was assuming that
he had withdrawn his request.
(ECF No. 6-3).
This letter also
explained that he could appeal the determination until January
Plaintiff filed the instant suit under FOIA on May 25,
(ECF No 1).
He seeks the same seven sets of records he
(Id. at 3-4).
On August 15, Defendant
moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under
(ECF No. 6).
Plaintiff responded on
August 23 (ECF No. 8), and Defendant replied on September 9 (ECF
Standard of Review
Defendant moves to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) on
the grounds that (1) Plaintiff’s pleadings as to subject matter
jurisdiction under FOIA are invalid and (2) he has failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies.
exists in the federal court.
The plaintiff bears the
See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166
subject matter jurisdiction, see 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii),
requiring analysis under Rule 12(b)(1) at the motion to dismiss
See Pair v. Soc. Sec. Admin., No RDB-15-1458, 2016 WL
739188, at *2-4 (D.Md. Feb. 25, 2016).
jurisdictional prerequisite under PARP.
Exhaustion is also a
See PARP § 9.2.1.
Without seeking leave, Plaintiff has also filed a
(ECF No. 10).
Under Local Rule 105.2(a), “[u]nless
otherwise ordered by the Court, surreply memoranda are not
permitted to be filed.”
A surreply may be permitted “when the
moving party would be unable to contest matters presented to the
court for the first time in the opposing party’s reply.” Khoury
v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 605 (D.Md. 2003) (citation
omitted). By contrast, “[a] motion for leave to file a surreply
may be denied when the matter addressed in the reply is not
Marshall v. Capital View Mut. Homes, No. RWT–12–3109,
2013 WL 3353752, at *3 (D.Md. July 2, 2013) (citation omitted).
Defendant did not raise new arguments in its reply. Therefore,
the court will not grant Plaintiff leave to file a surreply.
Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court “is to regard the pleadings as
mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co.
v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991); see also
Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982).
jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R., 945 F.2d at 768.
held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)); Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
Liberal construction means that the
court will read the pleadings to state a valid claim to the
extent that it is possible to do so from the facts available; it
does not mean that the court should rewrite the complaint to
include claims never presented.
1128, 1132 (10th Cir. 1999).
Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d
That is, even when pro se litigants
are involved, the court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege
facts that support a viable claim.
Weller v. Dep’t of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990); Forquer v. Schlee, No.
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (“[E]ven a pro
se complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a plausible
claim for relief.”).
Plaintiff purports to bring this action under FOIA.
No. 1 ¶ 1).
He argues that WMATA receives federal funding,
making FOIA applicable here.
(ECF No. 8, at 2).
“However, it is clear on the face of 5 U.S.C. §
551(1) that an ‘agency’ must be a federal entity, and to the
extent that the non-state status of the District of Columbia
does not include the District of Columbia.”
People for the Am.
Way Found. v. U.S. Dep’t of Educ., 516 F.Supp.2d 28, 36 (D.D.C.
2007) (citing 5 U.S.C. § 551(1)(D)).
Courts have affirmed that
WMATA is not a federal agency, but rather an interstate compact
that serves as “an ‘instrumentality and agency of each of the
Hence it is not subject to [§ 551(1)].”
Seal & Co.
v. WMATA, 768 F.Supp. 1150, 1154 (E.D.Va. 1991) (quoting WMATA
v. One Parcel of Land, 706 F.2d 1312, 1314 (4th Cir. 1983)).
Accordingly, FOIA does not apply.
As noted above, however, public records are obtainable from
WMATA under the governing compact and WMATA regulations through
the PARP process.
Defendant notified Plaintiff that PARP would
govern his information request in its August 25, 2015, letter,
and Plaintiff responded by submitting a notarized copy of his
request within the allotted time.
status, his claim will be construed as alleging violations of
Jurisdiction in this court is valid under PARP § 9.3.2.
That section, however, requires that the action be filed within
two years of the date of administrative exhaustion.
appeals process, before seeking judicial review.”).
under PARP requires that a denial of a request for records be
December 11, 2015, clearly stated that he would have to file a
written appeal by January 27, 2016, in order to contest any
aspect of its determination.
(ECF No. 6-3).
Plaintiff does not
Plaintiff argues in his opposition that Defendant failed
to reply to his requests within the appropriate time limits. In
the context of FOIA, courts have held that a requester may be
“deemed to have exhausted his administrative remedies and may
commence litigation immediately if the agency fails to comply
with the applicable time limit provisions.”
Coleman v. Drug
Enforcement Administration, 714 F.3d. 816, 820 (4th Cir. 2013).
Plaintiff did not commence his litigation immediately, however,
Therefore, Defendant’s motion to dismiss will be granted for
failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss filed by
Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will be
A separate order will follow.
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
and this type of “constructive exhaustion” is only valid “so
long as the agency has not cured its violation by responding
before the requester files suit.”
Therefore, even if
Defendant violated the PARP timing provisions as Plaintiff
administrative appeal once Defendant sent its responsive letter
on October 23, 2015.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?