University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Page v. U.S. Department of Justice NS-DC-0143
Docket / Court 1:19-cv-03149 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) National Security
Special Collection Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- All Matters
Case Summary
This case is related to the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse's coverage of the Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. For more information on litigation to disclose the warrants that inspired this case, please see ... read more >
This case is related to the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse's coverage of the Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. For more information on litigation to disclose the warrants that inspired this case, please see this link. For a summary of the warrants and information on ongoing efforts by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to protect the confidential information in them, see this link.
The FISA requires the government to obtain a warrant from the FISC before it may conduct any domestic electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information. The warrant applications are made ex parte and must include a sworn statement by a federal officer of the facts and circumstances relied upon to justify the government's belief that the target of surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Once a FISC judge receives a warrant application, the judge can order approval of the surveillance only if the judge finds that there is probable cause to believe that the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Because the orders only authorize surveillance up to 90 days, the government must file an application for an extension that meets the same requirements as the initial warrant application and obtain a renewal order from the FISC for continued surveillance. For the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse collection of FISA matters, see our special collection.

On October 21, 2019, an informal advisor to the Trump 2016 presidential campaign filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. § 552) and the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The plaintiff, a target of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants during the campaign, asked the DOJ to release records containing information about him and the warrants against him, halt further dissemination of information about him or the warrants against him through an injunction, and refer DOJ officials responsible for "leaking" information about his warrants to the press for prosecution. Though the plaintiff got private counsel later in the case, he initially filed the case pro se, and it was assigned to Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson.

The complaint stated that the plaintiff filed his initial FOIA request with the DOJ in May 2017, but he had not yet received all the relevant documents related to the request at the time of the complaint. He alleged that, instead of responding to his FOIA request, the defendant "leaked" information about his FISA warrants to The New York Times in 2018, which was "defamatory" because it was based on false claims about "collusion" with Russia.

The defendants filed a motion to extend time to respond on November 25, 2019, noting that the Privacy Act and FOIA have different response timelines, and suggesting that the DOJ respond to both claims on December 23, before the Privacy Act deadline but after the FOIA deadline. Page contested this request in a motion filed four days later, alleging that the harm to his reputation as a result of the Privacy Act violations was ongoing and threatening to file for an emergency injunction if an amicable resolution was not found by December 2. The DOJ filed a responsive motion on December 2 by saying that, under this new timeline, the Privacy Act claims would be addressed before they normally would be, so the injunction was not necessary. Judge Jackson agreed with their logic, and approved the DOJ's motion to move the response date to December 23.

On December 23, the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss. On the FOIA claims, the DOJ argued that, because the plaintiff did not modify his FOIA request in response to DOJ questions on some of the requested documents, he had not yet exhausted administrative remedies, and therefore was ineligible to proceed with a FOIA claim as to those documents. The DOJ also alleged that the disclosure to The New York Times was not a violation of the Privacy Act, because it was done in response to the newspaper's own FOIA request and both The New York Times and the plaintiff received copies of the documents after careful consideration. For more information on efforts by The New York Times to get these documents through FOIA, please see NS-NY-0024 in this Clearinghouse. The DOJ added that the Privacy Act only allows for damages, not injunctive relief as the plaintiff was seeking. Finally, the DOJ argued that the plaintiff's broad statement that he "colluded with Russian officials" in the released FISA warrants was not a specific enough allegation of false information to constitute a Privacy Act violation.

The plaintiff filed several motions to extend time to respond to this motion to dismiss in early 2020, which were all granted. The plaintiff engaged private counsel on March 25, 2020. The parties entered into settlement negotiations on May 26, 2020, which resulted in a stay of proceedings and temporarily absolved the plaintiff of any duty to respond to the motion to dismiss. A July 15, 2020 status report showed that the parties attempted to resolve their disputes, but were unsuccessful.

With the settlement talks at a standstill, Judge Jackson required the plaintiff to respond anew to the DOJ motion to dismiss by September 11, 2020. The plaintiff's private counsel through the settlement negotiations were not admitted to the District of Columbia bar, and encouraged him to seek local counsel. The plaintiff's attorneys withdrew on August 11, noting in their motion that he was having difficulty in retaining local counsel on that date.

The parties stipulated to dismissal of the case with prejudice on September 11, 2020, with each side bearing its own attorneys' fees and costs. The stipulation did not say why the parties agreed to dismiss the case, but it is possible that the plaintiff was unable to meet the court's deadline to respond to the government's motion to dismiss. The case is now closed.

Ellen Aldin - 12/16/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Confidentiality
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Search policies
Terrorism/Post 9-11 issues
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description Carter W. Page, an informal advisor to the Trump 2016 presidential campaign
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Filed 10/21/2019
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing NS-DC-0127 : In re Carter W. Page: A U.S. Person [FISA dockets 16-1182, 17-52, 17-375, 17-679] (FISC)
NS-DC-0138 : In re Accuracy Concerns Regarding FBI Matters Submitted to the FISC (FISC)
NS-DC-0126 : FISA Court Matters relating to disclosure of Carter Page surveillance records: Four FISC cases [FISC Misc. 18-01, Misc. 18-02, Misc. 18-03, and Misc. 19-01] (FISC)
NS-DC-0144 : Page v. Comey (D.D.C.)
NS-DC-0146 : James Madison Project v. U.S. Department of Justice (D.D.C.)
NS-DC-0147 : Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice (D.D.C.)
Court Docket(s)
D.D.C.
09/11/2020
1:19-cv-03149-KBJ
NS-DC-0143-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.D.C.
10/21/2019
Complaint [ECF# 1]
NS-DC-0143-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
11/25/2019
Defendant's Motion for an Extension of Time to Respond to the Complaint [ECF# 6, 7, 8]
NS-DC-0143-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
12/23/2019
Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss and for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF# 9]
NS-DC-0143-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
07/15/2020
Joint Status Report [ECF# 15]
NS-DC-0143-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
08/11/2020
Motion to Withdraw [ECF# 17]
NS-DC-0143-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
09/11/2020
Stipulation of Dismissal [ECF# 19]
NS-DC-0143-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Jackson, Ketanji Brown (D.D.C., D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0143-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Buchanan, Thomas M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0143-0004 | NS-DC-0143-0005 | NS-DC-0143-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berman, Marcia (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0143-0002 | NS-DC-0143-0003 | NS-DC-0143-0005 | NS-DC-0143-0006
Clark, Jeffrey Bossert (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0143-0006
Davis, Ethan P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0143-0002 | NS-DC-0143-0003 | NS-DC-0143-0005
Powell, Amy E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
NS-DC-0143-0002 | NS-DC-0143-0003 | NS-DC-0143-0005 | NS-DC-0143-0006 | NS-DC-0143-9000

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