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Granat v. United States Department of Agriculture

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 29, 2015

AMY GRANAT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MORRISON C. ENGLAND, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Through this action, Plaintiffs assert twelve causes of action stemming from Defendants' decision to prohibit motorized travel on routes in Plumas National Forest. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11), which seeks the dismissal of Plaintiffs' twelfth cause of action. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED and the twelfth cause of action is DISMISSED with prejudice.[1]

BACKGROUND

The twelfth cause of action in Plaintiffs' Complaint (ECF No. 1) alleges that Defendants violated the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Plaintiff Sierra Access Coalition submitted FOIA requests on November 21, 2010, November 24, 2010, and September 2, 2011, and that Defendants failed to respond to those requests within the statutory time limit. Compl., ECF No. 1, at 45.

In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants claim that they complied with all three of the FOIA requests shortly after receiving them. Defendants contend that they provided all documents responsive to the November 21, 2010 FOIA request via email to Plaintiff Sierra Access Coalition on December 21, 2010. Defendants claim they provided all documents responsive to the November 24, 2010 FOIA request on December 7, 2010, when the FOIA Coordinator of Plumas National Forest, Elizabeth Schramel ("Schramel"), met with the Executive Director of Sierra Access Coalition, Plaintiff Corky Lazzarino ("Lazzarino"). As to the September 2, 2011 FOIA request, Schramel "believes that she provided [the requested] information to Ms. Lazzarino in 2011." Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 11, at 5.

A declaration from Schramel is attached to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11-2). Included within Schramel's declaration is all of the information that Plaintiffs requested and that Defendants claim to have provided in 2010 and 2011. Schramel's declaration also includes two emails from Lazzarino to Schramel. See Schramel Decl., ECF No. 11-2, Exs. H and I. The first email, which was sent from "sierraaccess@yahoo.com" on December 17, 2010 provides: "Lee Anne, thank you for expediting SAC's FOIAs. We really appreciate the extra consideration you've shown us.Corky." Id. at Ex. H. The second email, which was sent from "sierraaccess@yahoo.com" on January 7, 2011, states: "Thank you for sending the copies of the appeals. You guys have all been great about providing information to SAC, and in a very timely manner. We appreciate it. Corky." Id. at Ex. I.

In a declaration attached to Plaintiffs' Opposition, Lazzarino denies that she received the documents that Plaintiffs claimed to have provided in 2010 and 2011, and she contends that Defendants "have engaged in a pattern of delay in responding to" FOIA requests. Lazzarino Decl., ECF No. 13-1, ΒΆ 13.

In the pending Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss the FOIA claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)[2] because even if the FOIA request was not satisfied in 2010 or 2011, Schramel's declaration-which includes all of the information that Plaintiffs requested in the aforementioned FOIA requests- renders the FOIA claim moot.

STANDARDS

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil actions. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). "[A] federal court has no authority to give opinions upon moot questions...." Church of Scientology v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12 (1992). Because mootness pertains to a federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction under Article III of the United States Constitution, it is properly raised in a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000).

There are two types of motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction: a facial attack and a factual attack. Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. Gen. Tel. & Elec. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979). A party may either make an attack on the allegations of jurisdiction contained in the nonmoving party's complaint, or may challenge the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, despite the formal sufficiency of the pleadings. Id.

When a party makes a facial attack on a complaint, the attack is unaccompanied by supporting evidence, and it challenges jurisdiction based solely on the pleadings. Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). If the motion to dismiss constitutes a facial attack, the court must consider the factual allegations of the complaint to be true, and determine whether they establish subject matter jurisdiction. Savage v. Glendale High Union Sch. Dist. No. 205, 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.1 (9th Cir. 2003). In the case of a facial attack, the motion to dismiss is granted only if the nonmoving party fails to allege an element necessary for subject matter jurisdiction. Id . However, in the case of a facial attack, district courts "may review evidence beyond the complaint without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment." Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039.

In the case of a factual attack, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations." Thornill, 594 F.2d at 733 (internal citation omitted). The party opposing the motion has the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction does exist, and must present any necessary evidence to satisfy this burden. St. Clair v. City of Chico, 880 F.2d 199, 201 (9th Cir. 1989). If the plaintiff's allegations of jurisdictional facts are challenged by the adversary in the appropriate manner, the plaintiff cannot rest on the mere assertion that factual issues may exist. Trentacosta v. Frontier P. Aircraft Ind., Inc., 813 F.2d 1553, 1558 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Exch. Nat'l Bank of Chi. v. Touche Ross & Co., 544 F.2d 1126, 1131 (2d Cir. 1976)). Furthermore, the district court may review any evidence necessary, including affidavits and testimony, in order to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. McCarthy v. United ...


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