Chelmowski v. United States


UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA JAMES CHELMOWSKI, Plaintiff, v. Civil Action No. 17-1394 (JEB) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION Pro se Plaintiff James Chelmowski has made sixteen Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests to three different Defendants — the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Archives and Records Administration. When the responses did not satisfy Chelmowski, he initiated this action. The FCC and NARA, to whom twelve requests are directed, have now filed a joint Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff opposes, arguing that the FCC improperly assessed search fees, that neither agency provided sufficient information for him to determine whether an adequate search had been conducted, that both agencies improperly withheld records, and, finally, that limited discovery is necessary before the Court rules. Having a multitude of arguments, however, does not necessarily mean that any will stick. Finding for the Government on all issues, the Court will grant its Motion. I. Background The backdrop for this case began in 2011, when Plaintiff alleged that two informal complaints were filed with the FCC — one by him and the second perhaps by AT&T Mobility LLC “impersonating him.” See ECF No. 1 (Compl.), ¶¶ 11–12, 13, 16. Chelmowski 1 subsequently filed a formal complaint with the FCC. Id., ¶ 21. While waiting for the agency to address that complaint — which he alleges it did on July 9, 2016, id., ¶ 28 — Plaintiff filed two FOIA requests on September 11, 2015, seeking information about the 2011 informal complaints. Id., ¶ 36. After the FCC responded by “provid[ing] . . . FOIA logs,” id., ¶ 38, Plaintiff filed a “FOIA Administrative Appeal” on September 30, 2015, concerning solely the informal complaint that he had filed. Id., ¶ 44. The FCC “refused to produce these records,” id., ¶ 44, and so Chelmowski requested that the “Office of Government Information Services (‘OGIS’) . . . help mediat[e] to obtain the FCC’s Informal Complaint final determination and other withheld records in full or in part.” Id., ¶ 46. To Plaintiff’s chagrin, OGIS denied him mediation services. Id., ¶ 51. Convinced that the FCC and NARA, of which OGIS is a part, were withholding pertinent information, Plaintiff then filed sixteen FOIA and Privacy Act (PA) requests seeking all records that concerned the agencies’ handling of his informal and formal complaints, previous FOIA requests and subsequent litigation, and information regarding their FOIA policies and guidelines more generally. See ECF No. 35 (Renewed Second Amended Complaint), ¶¶ 37–38; see also ECF No. 99 (Def. Reply) at 1, 3. The Court will briefly introduce the twelve requests at issue in this case. A. FCC Records 1. FCC Request No. 2017-511 On March 27, 2017, Plaintiff made a PA request for “all records about [himself] . . . in all databases from January 1, 2011, to date of search and production.” ECF No. 68-4, Exh. 1 (Chelmowski 4/3/17 Letter) at 1 (emphasis removed). One month later, …

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