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Camastro v. United States

U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit


March 04, 1999

DANTE V. CAMASTRO PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.

Before Lourie, Schall, and Bryson, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam.

NOTE: Pursuant to Fed. Cir. R. 47.6, this Disposition is not citable as precedent. It is a public record. The Disposition will appear in tables published periodically.

DECISION

Dante V. Camastro appeals from the July 14, 1998 order of the United States Court of Federal Claims dismissing his claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Camastro v. United States, Docket No. 98-570C. Because the Court of Federal Claims lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate Camastro's claims, we affirm.

DISCUSSION

Mr. Camastro's claims arise from his tenure as a physician's assistant with the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Correctional Institution, Loretto, Pennsylvania ("the agency"). During his time at the agency, Camastro was discharged from employment twice, and on both occasions he appealed his discharge. Following the first discharge on July 24, 1992, Camastro appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging that his discharge was based on work related injuries; the Board reinstated Camastro and awarded him back pay with interest. See Camastro v. Department of Justice, Docket No. PH-0353-96-0268-I-1 (July 31, 1996). Camastro was discharged a second time on August 29, 1997, and he again appealed to the Board. This time, however, Camastro and the agency resolved their differences via a settlement agreement. See Camastro v. Department of Justice, Docket No. PH-0353-96-0268-I-1 (January 22, 1998).

On July 10, 1998, Camastro filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims asserting numerous claims associated with his terminations from employment. Camastro asserted a series of tort claims seeking compensation for, inter alia, emotional distress, pain, and suffering; violations of several federal laws including the Federal Employees Compensation Act, the Back Pay Act and the Code of Federal Regulations; breach of contract; and violation of his constitutional rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. In a brief order, the Court of Federal Claims dismissed Camastro's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Characterizing the entire action as one sounding in tort, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to hear Camastro's claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1491. In denying Camastro's motion for reconsideration, the court further concluded that Camastro had not established an employment contract with the United States, and he thus had no basis for his "contract" claims. Camastro appealed to this court. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(3) (1994).

Whether the Court of Federal Claims properly dismissed Camastro's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is an issue of law which we review de novo. Aerolineas Argentinas v. United States, 77 F.3d 1564, 1572 (Fed. Cir. 1996). It is plaintiff's burden to prove that the Court of Federal Claims had subject matter jurisdiction. Reynolds v. Army & Air Force Exch. Serv., 846 F.2d 746, 748 (Fed. Cir. 1988).

Camastro argues that the trial Judge misunderstood his complaint and erroneously concluded that his claims sounded in tort. Camastro further contends that he did in fact have employment contracts with the government-- an implied contract for his first year of employment and an express "collective bargaining" contract thereafter.

We agree with the government that Camastro has failed to satisfy his burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction. The subject matter jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a):

"The United States Court of Federal Claims shall have jurisdiction to render judgment upon any claim against the United States founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress or any regulation of an executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in cases not sounding in tort. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a) (1994) (emphasis added).

The emphasized language clearly indicates that the Court of Federal Claims has no jurisdiction over tort claims. See also Alves v. United States, 133 F.3d 1454, 1459 (Fed. Cir. 1998). While we agree with petitioner that he does not use words such as "tort," "negligence," or "duty of care," his claims are either overtly tort claims (e.g., pain and suffering) or they sound in tort. For example, his breach of contract claims are really framed as tort claims. See, e.g., complaint at ¶ 15 ("Plaintiff alleges that as a direct and proximate result of Defendant's wrongful acts in discharging him, and in refusing to return him to work, he has suffered extreme emotional distress, pain, suffering, depression, humiliation, [and] loss of reputation . . . ."). While Camastro alleges violations of federal laws and the Constitution, the complaint reveals that these claims are simply part and parcel of his tort claims. See, e.g., complaint at ¶¶ 17, 19 (incorporating by reference the preceding tort claims into his federal law and constitutional claims). Moreover, Camastro's constitutional claims fail in any case because "Constitutional claims 'standing alone,' i.e., without an underlying statutory or regulatory right to recovery, 'cannot be interpreted to command the payment of money,' and therefore cannot support the Court of Claims jurisdiction under the Tucker Act." See Hamlet v. United States, 63 F.3d 1097, 1107 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). In addition, to the extent that Mr. Camastro's breach of contract arguments in effect constitute a personnel action, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) precludes such an action in the Court of Federal Claims. See United States v. Fausto, 484 U.S. 439, 454 (1988) (["W]e find that under the comprehensive and integrated review scheme of the CSRA, the Claims Court [Court of Federal Claims] (and any other court relying on Tucker Act jurisdiction) is not an 'appropriate authority' to review an agency's personnel determination."). The Board is the proper forum for such employee claims, and Camastro has already availed himself of that forum, with some success.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Court of Federal Claims properly dismissed this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We therefore affirm.

19990304


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