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EDMOND v. USPS

November 14, 1989

JOHN EDMOND, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, et al., Defendants


George H. Revercomb, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: REVERCOMB

GEORGE H. REVERCOMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 This lawsuit arises out of the defendants' alleged violation of plaintiffs' civil rights in the investigation and prosecution of plaintiff John Edmond's mail-order contact lens business. Plaintiffs John Edmond and Pamela Lyles allege violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986, *fn1" various constitutional violations under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents 403 U.S. 388, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619, 91 S. Ct. 1999 (1977), and violations of 15 U.S.C. § 1681. *fn2" Defendants United States Postal Service, Postal Inspectors Sparks, Thomas Krautheim and M. Sherwin Green, and former Assistant United States Attorney Wendy Arnell have moved to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. Plaintiffs oppose this motion and have submitted documents and affidavits in support of their opposition.

 I. Legal Standard

 The purpose of the summary judgment procedure is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial. Advisory Committee Note to 1963 Amendment of Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. Rule 56(e). The party opposing summary judgment "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Instead, the nonmoving party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). If the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment shall be granted. Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. Rule 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

 II. Claims Against the United States Postal Service and Federal Officers in their Official Capacities

 Plaintiffs have sued the United States Postal Service and federal officials Sparks, Krautheim, Green and Arnell in their official capacities for compensatory and punitive damages. Defendants correctly argue, however, that these defendants are immune from suit under the principle of sovereign immunity. *fn3" "The United States, as sovereign, is immune from suit save as it consents to be sued . . ., and the terms of its consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit." United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586, 85 L. Ed. 1058, 61 S. Ct. 767 (1941). The doctrine bars suits for damages against the federal government, its agencies, and federal officials when sued in their official capacities. Clark v. Library of Congress, 242 U.S. App. D.C. 241, 750 F.2d 89, 103-104 (D.C.Cir. 1984); Kline v. Republic of El Salvador, 603 F. Supp. 1313, 1316 (D.D.C. 1985).

 The doctrine of sovereign immunity here protects the Postal Service and the other defendants sued in their official capacities from all of plaintiffs' claims in the instant case. See Laswell v. Brown, 683 F.2d 261, 268 (8th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1210, 103 S. Ct. 1205, 75 L. Ed. 2d 446 (1983); Seibert v. Baptist, 594 F.2d 423, 428 (5th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 918, 64 L. Ed. 2d 271, 100 S. Ct. 1851 (1980); Kline v. Republic of El Salvador, supra, 603 F. Supp. at 1316-1317 (D.D.C. 1985). All of plaintiffs' claims against the United States Postal Service and those claims against the individual federal officers to the extent that they are being pursued against them in their official capacities are hereby DISMISSED.

 III. Whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over defendant Arnell4

 A plaintiff in district court must plead essential jurisdictional facts and must carry throughout the litigation the burden of showing that he is properly in court. "If his allegations of jurisdictional facts are challenged by his adversary in any appropriate manner, he must support them by competent proof. And where they are not so challenged the court may still insist that the jurisdictional facts be established or the case be dismissed, and for that purpose the court may demand that the party alleging jurisdiction justify his allegations by a preponderance of evidence." McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 80 L. Ed. 1135, 56 S. Ct. 780 (1936); see also Reuber v. United States, 242 U.S. App. D.C. 370, 750 F.2d 1039, 1052 (D.C.Cir. 1984).

 Since defendant Arnell does not reside in the District of Columbia, *fn5" personal jurisdiction may be invoked over her only pursuant to the District's long-arm statute. *fn6" D.C. Ann.Code §§ 13-422, 13-423; Reuber v. United States, supra, 750 F.2d at 1049. Section 13-423(a)(3) *fn7" of the statute authorizes jurisdiction over a person who causes tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission in the District of Columbia. The provision "clearly separates the act from the tortious injury and affords personal jurisdiction over non-residents only when both the act and the injury occur in the District." Margoles v. Johns, 333 F. Supp. 942, 944 (D.C.D.C. 1971), affirmed, 157 U.S. App. D.C. 209, 483 F.2d 1212 (D.C.Cir. 1973).

 Only two of plaintiffs' alleged injuries could have occurred in the District of Columbia. First, on the night of their arrest, plaintiffs were allegedly taken by the Postal Inspectors to the Washington D.C. office where they were fingerprinted and photographed. Amended Complaint, par. 29; Declaration of John Edmond, par. 16. Second, Ms. Arnell sent an allegedly defamatory letter about plaintiff Lyles to the Washington D.C. Bar Association's legal counsel. Exhibit D to Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss. Neither incident is legally sufficient to confer jurisdiction over defendant Arnell.

 Arnell's only link to the fingerprint session is her alleged participation in a broad "conspiracy" to violate plaintiffs' civil rights. Plaintiffs' Opposition, p. 14; Amended Complaint, par. 4; Declaration of John Edmond, par. 16. No facts of record, however, show that Arnell actually joined this "conspiracy" and plaintiffs' allegations alone are insufficient to establish the jurisdiction of this court. Naartex Consulting Corporation v. Watt, 232 U.S. App. D.C. 293, 722 F.2d 779 (D.C.Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1210, 81 L. Ed. 2d 355, 104 S. Ct. 2399 (1984); Lott v. Burning Tree Club, Inc., 516 F. Supp. 913 (D.C.D.C. 1980); accord Daughrty v. Arlington County Va., 490 F. Supp. 307 (D.C.D.C. 1980). Furthermore, the sending of an allegedly defamatory letter is legally insufficient to establish an act occurring within Washington D.C. Tavoulareas v. Comnas, 232 U.S. App. D.C. 17, 720 F.2d 192 ...


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