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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 goodfaith effort to locate the requested items, and that the agency’s withholding of certain material was justified.
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 [PDF].