Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Humane Society of United States v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

May 16, 2019

HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Liam O'Grady United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, Dkt. 30, and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Dkt. 31. For the following reasons, the Motions are granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs in this case, various animal rights groups, are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Department of the Interior for alleged FOIA violations. Plaintiffs have submitted various FOIA requests regarding African elephant and lion trophy permits dating back to January 1, 2016. Plaintiffs argue the failure of FWS to produce the requested permits within the statutory deadline prescribed by FOIA constitutes a FOIA violation and seek a declaratory judgment that FWS has violated FOIA.

         Plaintiffs also seek an injunction requiring Defendants to (1) immediately make available via FWS' online reading room all existing records related to Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) permit application materials pertaining to trophy imports of African elephants and lions submitted on or after January 1, 2016; (2) on an ongoing basis to make all ESA and CITES permit application materials pertaining to trophy imports of African elephants and lions, records of decision for such permits, and enhancement and non-detriment findings supporting the issuance or denial of such permits available electronically and in a timely manner via FWS' online reading room; and (3) order FWS to provide an index or guide to the records it has posted and hereafter posts online.

         At the time Plaintiffs filed the Amended Complaint, Defendants had not yet complied with Plaintiffs' request for release of the permits that had been issued from January 1, 2016 to present. Since the filing of the Amended Complaint, Defendants fulfilled Plaintiffs' FOIA request for these permits. Defendants argue this moots the Amended Complaint as to this declaratory judgment issue. Further, Defendants argue FOIA's reading room provision cannot be used to force agencies to proactively post records so Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim.

         II. Legal Standard

         A court may dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) when "a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based." Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). Alternatively, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) is appropriate if the plaintiff cannot meet his burden of establishing a jurisdictional basis for the suit. See Id. at 1215. When considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion the Court must assume all facts alleged in the complaint are true. Burke v. AT&T Tech. Servs. Co., 55 F.Supp.2d 432, 436 (E.D. Va. 1999).

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual information to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 550 (2007). Because a Rule 12(b)(6)

         motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint without resolving factual disputes, a district court '"must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint' and 'draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.'" Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep 't v. Montgomery County, 684 F.3d 462, 467 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)).

         III. Analysis

         This case involves FOIA's reading room provision. Under this provision, agencies are required to post certain records online. The statute, in relevant part, states:

(2) Each agency, in accordance with published rules, shall make available for public inspection in an electronic format--
(A) final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.