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Reyes v. Bureau of Indian Affairs Pacific Regional Office

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 25, 2017

EMILIO REYES, Plaintiff,
v.
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS PACIFIC REGIONAL OFFICE,

          ORDER

          WILLIAM Q. HAYES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The matter before the Court is the Complaint filed by Plaintiff Emilio Reyes (“Plaintiff”) (ECF No. 1) and the Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) (ECF No. 2) filed by Plaintiff.

         On June 13, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff has not paid the $400 civil filing fee required to commenced this action, but Plaintiff has filed the Motion for Leave to Proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF No. 2).

         I. Motion for Leave to Proceed IFP (ECF No. 2)

         All parties instituting a civil action, suit, or proceeding in a district court of the United States, other than a petition for writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee of $400.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a); Civ LR 4.5. An action may proceed despite a party's failure to pay only if the party is granted leave to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) states,

any court of the United States may authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets such prisoner possesses that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor. Such affidavit shall state the nature of the action, defense or appeal and affiant's belief that the person is entitled to redress.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

         In this case, after considering Plaintiff's motion and affidavit, the Court concludes that Plaintiff cannot afford to pay the filing fee in this case and is eligible to proceed IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Motion for Leave to Proceed IFP (ECF No. 2) is GRANTED.

         II. Initial Screening of the Complaint

         A complaint filed by any person proceeding IFP pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) is subject to mandatory review and sua sponte dismissal to the extent it “is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). This screening standard applies to all civil actions where a court grants IFP; see Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (“the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners”).

         In this case, the Complaint states that “plaintiff seeks access to documents in the possession of the Bureau of Indian Affairs concerning FOIA BIA-2017-00004 seeking 1928 California Indian enrollment application #5691 for Margaret Alviso Domingues and #5692 for Custodia Alviso Robles.” (ECF No. 1 at 1). The Complaint states,

14 documents responsive to Plaintiffs FOIA request have been withheld in full. A Vaughn index would be particularly useful in sharpening the issues and permitting the plaintiff to test the bases for the government's exemption claims. Therefore, plaintiff has requested the Court to require the defendant to provide the plaintiff with an appropriate Vaughn index within 20 days of the date of the Court's Order.

Id. at 2.

         “FOIA ‘was enacted to facilitate public access to Government documents.'” Lahr v. Nat'l Transp. Safety Bd., 569 F.3d 964, 973 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting U.S. Dept. of State v. Ray, 502 U.S. 164, 173 (1991)). The purpose of a Vaughn index, a term which originated from Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), “‘is to afford the FOIA requester a meaningful opportunity to contest, and the district court an adequate opportunity to review, the soundness of the withholding.'” Fiduccia v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 185 F.3d 1035, 1042 (9th Cir. 1999) (quoting Wiener v. F.B.I., 943 F.2d 972, 977 (9th Cir. 1991)). Under the FOIA statute, “federal jurisdiction is dependent upon a showing that an agency has (1) ‘improperly'; (2) ‘withheld'; (3) ‘agency records.'” Kissinger v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 445 U.S. 136, 150 (1980) (citation omitted). “FOIA's waiver of immunity and jurisdictional grant provides that district courts have ‘jurisdiction to enjoin the agency from withholding agency records and to order the production of any agency ...


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