Fieger v. FEC
On February 26, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted the Commission’s motion for summary judgment in Fieger v. FEC and dismissed the case, finding that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because Geoffrey Fieger (Plaintiff) was not the party who made the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests at issue and so Plaintiff lacked standing to file suit.
In July of 2008, Michael Deszi, an attorney with the law firm Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Johnson, and Giroux, PC, made a formal request to the Commission for records under FOIA. Mr. Deszi made a second request to the Commission in October 2008. These requests sought documents related to the Commission’s interactions with the Department of Justice and the White House.
The Commission provided responsive material, but the Plaintiff’s lawsuit asked the district court to order the Commission to do further searching and make further disclosures. The Commission filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the Plaintiff lacked standing, that the agency had made a good faith effort to locate the requested items, and that the agency’s withholding of certain material was justified.
District court decision
The district court held that it was not possible to discern from the two letters Mr. Deszi sent to the Commission that they were requests for documents by or on behalf of Mr. Fieger, since Mr. Fieger did not sign the letters, and nowhere in either letter was there a statement or suggestion that Mr. Deszi had made the requests on Fieger’s behalf.
The court held that a plaintiff cannot show injury-in-fact when he has not made a request for information on his own or explicitly through counsel. The court explained that a plaintiff who bases a FOIA lawsuit upon the request for information by another person does not satisfy the constitutional standing requirement, which requires that he must assert a violation of his own legal rights.
Although the Plaintiff argued that Mr. Deszi was acting as counsel in a representative capacity, the court held that federal FOIA jurisprudence leaves no doubt that a lawyer’s request for information must plainly spell out the representative capacity and the identity of the client before that client can bring a FOIA action in his or her own name and that when an attorney files a FOIA request on behalf of a client, the attorney is the one to whom courts have granted standing to sue.
Accordingly, the court granted the Commission’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
Source: FEC Record— April 2010
Appeals Court (6th Circuit) (07-2291)
- Opinion (09/15/2008)
- Final Brief for the FEC Chairman in His Official Capacity (03/17/2008)
- Plaintiffs-Appellants' Reply Brief on Appeal (03/04/2008)
- Final Brief of the United States Attorney General (03/03/2008)
- Plaintiffs-Appellants' Proof Reply Brief on Appeal (02/13/2008)
- Proof Brief for the FEC Chairman in His Official Capacity (01/31/2008)
- Proof Brief for the United States Attorney General (01/31/2008)
- Plaintiffs-Appellants' Proof Brief on Appeal (12/28/2007)
District Court (Eastern District of MI, Southern Div.) (08-14125)
- Opinion and Order (02/26/2010)
- Defendant's Reply in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (10/15/2009)
- Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (10/01/2009)
- Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (09/07/2009)
- Plaintiff's Second Supplemental Brief and Exhibit in Support of Motion for Leave to Conduct Discovery (04/03/2009)
- Defendant Federal Election Commission's Answer to Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint for Injunctive Relief (03/09/2009)
- First Amended Complaint for Injunctive Relief (02/19/2009)
- Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint (02/09/2009)
- Defendant Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Conduct Discovery (01/16/2009)
- Defendant FEC's Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint for Injunctive Relief (10/29/2008)
- Complaint for Injunctive Relief (09/25/2008)
District Court (Eastern District of MI, Southern Div.) (07-10533)
- Defendant Alberto Gonzales's Brief in Response to Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss Without Prejudice (06/18/2007)
- Plaintiff's Reply in Support of Motion for Declaratory Judgment and Response in Opposition to Defendant Gonzales's Motion to Dismiss (04/30/2007)
- Defendant Federal Election Commission's Motion for Summary Judgment (04/16/2007)
- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's Brief in Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Declaratory Relief and Writ of Mandamus (04/16/2007)
- Answer of the Federal Election Commission and Its Chairman (04/09/2007)
- Defendant Alberto Gonzales's Motion to Dismiss (04/09/2007)
- Plaintiffs' Motion for Declaratory Judgment and Writ of Mandamus (02/07/2007)