Skip to content

Case Detail

[Subscribe to updates]
Case TitleChelmowski v. Federal Communication Commission
DistrictNorthern District of Illinois
CityChicago
Case Number1:2016cv05587
Date Filed2016-05-25
Date Closed2017-02-24
JudgeHonorable Sharon Johnson Coleman
PlaintiffJames Chelmowski
Case DescriptionJames Chelmowski submitted three FOIA requests to the Federal Communications Commission for records concerning his informal complaint to the agency pertaining to AT&T. Chelmowski had some back and forth with the agency and the agency ultimately provided a response. Chemowski was dissatisfied and apparently appealed. Still dissatisfied, he complained to the Office of Government Information Services. OGIS eventually told Chelmowski that the FCC had declined to participate in mediation. Chelmowski then filed suit.
Complaint issues: Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Vaughn index, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantFederal Communication Commission
DefendantAT&T
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Opinion/Order [53]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in Illinois has ruled that James Chelmowski failed to exhaust his administrative remedies when he appealed the FCC's decision to OGIS rather than to the FCC. But the court found that the agency was not permitted to charge Chelmoswki $917 in fees for searching for records because it had missed the statutory time limit for responding and had not shown that its delay was due to exceptional ot unusual circumstances. Chelmowski submitted four FOIA requests to the FCC. The agency provided a consolidated response to his first two requests, disclosing 14 pages. Chelmowski appealed that decision and the agency provided an additional 87 pages and told him that if the agency did not hear back from him within a month it would consider the appeal resolved. Rather than respond to the agency, Chelmowski filed a complaint with OGIS, which he emailed to the FCC as well. Chelmowski submitted two more requests to the FCC. The agency responded to one request indicating it had no more records than those that had already been sent to him. Chelmowski filed an appeal of that request. The agency finally sent a consolidated response to both requests indicating that the second request would require a further database search that would cost $917. The agency argued that Chelmowski had not exhausted his administrative remedies when he appealed to OGIS rather than the agency. The court agreed, noting that "there is no authority on which this Court could find that submitting a request to OGIS for assistance can supplant an application for review from the full Commission. . ." Chelmowski argued the agency had violated Section (a)(4)(A)(viii)(I)(II), which prohibits an agency from assessing fees if it misses a deadline for responding. The agency argued that an exception to the prohibition for the existence of exceptional circumstances applied. But the court noted that "the FCC does not provide any reason for the delay." The FCC also claimed its response constituted a new search, but the court observed that "this argument is too bare for this Court to properly find as a matter of law that the FCC may assess the $917 fee."
Issues: Litigation - Jurisdiction - Failure to Exhaust, Time Limits - Tolling of fees
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2016-05-251COMPLAINT filed by James Chelmowski; (Exhibits). (Poor Quality Original- Paper Document on File.) (jjr, ) Modified on 6/22/2016 (jjr, ). (Entered: 05/26/2016)
2016-05-252CIVIL Cover Sheet. (jjr, ) (Entered: 05/26/2016)
2016-05-253PRO SE Appearance by Plaintiff James Chelmowski. (jjr, ) (Entered: 05/26/2016)
2016-06-16SUMMONS Issued as to Federal Communication Commission, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Attorney General (daj, ) (Entered: 06/16/2016)
2016-07-015MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: Status hearing set for 7/20/2016 at 09:00 AM. Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 07/01/2016)
2016-07-116SUMMONS Returned Executed by James Chelmowski as to All Defendants (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 07/11/2016)
2016-07-117DESIGNATION of John D. Cooke as U.S. Attorney for Defendant Federal Communication Commission (Cooke, John) (Entered: 07/11/2016)
2016-07-128MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission for extension of time to file answer regarding complaint 1 (Cooke, John) (Entered: 07/12/2016)
2016-07-129NOTICE of Motion by John D. Cooke for presentment of motion for extension of time to file answer, motion for relief 8 before Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 7/20/2016 at 08:45 AM. (Cooke, John) (Entered: 07/12/2016)
2016-07-1310STATUS Report Joint Initial Status Report by James Chelmowski (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 07/13/2016)
2016-07-1411RESPONSE by James Chelmowski to MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission for extension of time to file answer regarding complaint 1 8 (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 07/14/2016)
2016-07-1512MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski to compel AT&T Subpeona (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 07/15/2016)
2016-07-1513NOTICE of Motion by James Chelmowski for presentment of motion to compel 12 before Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 7/20/2016 at 08:45 AM. (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 07/15/2016)
2016-07-2014MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: Status hearing held on 7/20/2016. Motion hearing held on 7/20/2016. Defendant's motion for extension of time to answer or otherwise plead 8 is granted to 8/19/2016. Plaintiff's motion to compel 12 is stricken. Status hearing set for 8/19/2016 at 09:00 AM.Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 07/21/2016)
2016-07-2515AMENDED complaint by James Chelmowski against Federal Communication Commission (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 07/25/2016)
2016-08-0916MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: Status hearing set for 8/19/2016 is stricken and reset sua sponte to 8/24/2016 at 09:00 AM.Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 08/09/2016)
2016-08-1617MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski to compel AT&T (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 08/16/2016)
2016-08-1618NOTICE of Motion by James Chelmowski for presentment of motion to compel 17 before Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 8/24/2016 at 08:45 AM. (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 08/16/2016)
2016-08-1919ANSWER to amended complaint by Federal Communication Commission (Cooke, John) (Entered: 08/19/2016)
2016-08-2220ATTORNEY Appearance for Respondent AT&T by Mark W. Lewis (Lewis, Mark) (Entered: 08/22/2016)
2016-08-2221RESPONSE by AT&T to MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski to compel AT&T 17 (Lewis, Mark) (Entered: 08/22/2016)
2016-08-2322REPLY by Plaintiff James Chelmowski Reply to Defendant's Answer (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 08/23/2016)
2016-08-2423MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman:Status hearing held. Counsel for Defendant FCC reported on the status of discovery regarding the emails requested by Plaintiff. Case set for further status on 10/14/2016 at 9:00 a.m. Motion hearing held. Plaintiffs Motion to Compel AT&T and Sanctions 17 is denied at this time. A written formal ruling shall follow shortly.Mailed notice (lxs, ) (Entered: 08/24/2016)
2016-08-2424MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman:A motion hearing was held on Plaintiffs Motion to Compel AT&T and Sanctions 17 on 8/24/2016. This Court considered the written and oral arguments on the motion, and the motion is denied. Discovery in FOIA cases is rare. Baker & Hostetler LLP v. United States DOC, 473 F.3d 312, 318 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Courts permit discovery in FOIA cases where a plaintiff has made a sufficient showing that the agency acted in bad faith. Justice v. I.R.S., 798 F. Supp. 2d at 47 (citations omitted); Ocasio v. DOJ, 67 F. Supp. 3d 438, 440 (D.D.C. 2014). Here, plaintiff is seeking to compel discovery from a third-party, AT&T, and has not shown any basis in law or fact for this Court to allow the request. Mailed notice (lxs, ) (Entered: 08/25/2016)
2016-10-1425MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: Status hearing held on 10/14/2016. Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings or other dispositive motions with supporting memoranda due by 10/21/2016. Response due by 11/14/2016. Reply due by 11/28/2016. Status hearing set for 12/19/2016 at 09:45 AM.Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 10/14/2016)
2016-10-2126MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski for summary judgment (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 10/21/2016)
2016-10-2727MEMORANDUM by James Chelmowski in support of motion for summary judgment 26 Memorandum of Exhibits (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Memo of Exhibits 1 of 6, # 2 Exhibit Memo of Exhibits 2 of 6, # 3 Exhibit Memo of Exhibits 3 of 6, # 4 Exhibit Memo of Exhibits 4 of 6, # 5 Exhibit Memo of Exhibits 5 of 6, # 6 Exhibit Memo of Exhibits 6 of 6)(Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 10/27/2016)
2016-10-2728MEMORANDUM by James Chelmowski in support of motion for summary judgment 26 Statement of Material Facts (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 10/27/2016)
2016-10-2829MEMORANDUM by James Chelmowski in support of motion for summary judgment 26 Memorandum of Points and Authorities (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 10/28/2016)
2016-11-0430MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission to strike MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski for summary judgment 26 , memorandum in support of motion 29 , memorandum in support of motion 28 (Cooke, John) (Entered: 11/04/2016)
2016-11-0431NOTICE of Motion by John D. Cooke for presentment of motion to strike, motion for relief,, 30 before Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 11/10/2016 at 08:45 AM. (Cooke, John) (Entered: 11/04/2016)
2016-11-0832OBJECTIONS by James Chelmowski to MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission to strike MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski for summary judgment 26 , memorandum in support of motion 29 , memorandum in support of motion 28 30 (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 11/08/2016)
2016-11-0933RESPONSE by James Chelmowskiin Opposition to MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission to strike MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski for summary judgment 26 , memorandum in support of motion 29 , memorandum in support of motion 28 30 Exhibit (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 11/09/2016)
2016-11-1034MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: Motion hearing held on 11/10/2016. Defendant's Motion to strike plaintiff's motion for summary judgment 30 is granted. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment 26 is stricken. Plaintiff granted leave to file a motion for summary judgment that complies with the rules. Cross motions for summary judgment are to be filed by 12/14/2016. Parties are allowed a maximum 20 pages for their initial motions only. Responses to the motions for summary judgment are due by 1/31/2017. Replies to the motions for summary judgment due by 2/13/2017. Oral argument on the motions is set for 2/20/2017 at 10:30 AM. Status hearing set to 12/19/2016 is hereby stricken.Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 11/10/2016)
2016-12-1335MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission for summary judgment (Cooke, John) (Entered: 12/13/2016)
2016-12-1336RULE 56.1 Statement by Federal Communication Commission regarding motion for summary judgment 35 (Cooke, John) (Entered: 12/13/2016)
2016-12-1337RULE 56.2 Statement by Federal Communication Commission regarding motion for summary judgment 35 (Cooke, John) (Entered: 12/13/2016)
2016-12-1438MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski for summary judgment (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 12/14/2016)
2016-12-1439MEMORANDUM by James Chelmowski in support of motion for summary judgment 38 MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 12/14/2016)
2016-12-1440MEMORANDUM by James Chelmowski in support of motion for summary judgment 38 Statement of Material Facts (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 12/14/2016)
2016-12-1441MEMORANDUM by James Chelmowski in support of motion for summary judgment 38 MEMORANDUM OF EXHIBITS (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit)(Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 12/14/2016)
2017-01-1042DESIGNATION of Kurt N. Lindland as U.S. Attorney for Defendant Federal Communication Commission (Lindland, Kurt) (Entered: 01/10/2017)
2017-01-3143RESPONSE by Federal Communication Commission to MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski for summary judgment 38 (Lindland, Kurt) (Entered: 01/31/2017)
2017-01-3144RESPONSE by Defendant Federal Communication Commission to Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts Rule 56.1 (Lindland, Kurt) (Entered: 01/31/2017)
2017-01-3145RESPONSE by James Chelmowski to MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission for summary judgment 35 (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 01/31/2017)
2017-02-0146MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski to amend/correct response to motion 45 (Attachments: # 1 Supplement Response with Corrected Clerical Error)(Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 02/01/2017)
2017-02-0147NOTICE of Motion by James Chelmowski for presentment of motion to amend/correct, motion for relief 46 before Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 2/7/2017 at 08:45 AM. (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 02/01/2017)
2017-02-0648MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: Plaintiff's motion for leave to correct clerical error 46 is granted. No appearance required on 2/7/2017. February 20, 2017 being an official federal holiday, oral argument on the motions set for 2/20/2017 is stricken and reset to 2/21/2017 at 01:30 PM.Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 02/06/2017)
2017-02-0749RESPONSE by James Chelmowskiin Opposition to MOTION by Defendant Federal Communication Commission for summary judgment 35 Corrected with Leave by the Court (Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 02/07/2017)
2017-02-1350REPLY by James Chelmowski to response to motion 43 , memorandum in support of motion 40 , memorandum in support of motion 39 , MOTION by Plaintiff James Chelmowski for summary judgment 38 , memorandum in support of motion 41 (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit Selected Exhibits from FCC exhibits in Record of the Court)(Chelmowski, James) (Entered: 02/13/2017)
2017-02-2151MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: Motion hearing held on 2/21/2017. Cross motions for summary judgment 35 38 are taken under advisement. Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 02/21/2017)
2017-02-2452MINUTE entry before the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman: The FCC's motion for summary judgment 35 is granted in part and denied in part and Chelmowski's motion for summary judgment 38 is granted in part and denied in part. Enter Memorandum Opinion and Order. Civil case terminated. Mailed notice (rth, ) (Entered: 02/24/2017)
2017-02-2453MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 2/24/2017:Mailed notice(rth, ) (Entered: 02/24/2017)
2017-02-2454ENTERED JUDGMENT Signed on 2/24/2017:Mailed notice(rth, ) (Entered: 02/24/2017)
Hide Docket Events
by FOIA Project Staff