The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge
Document Nos.: 27, 28, 33, 34, 48, 50
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STRIKE; GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' RENEWED MOTIONS TO DISMISS
This action arises from previously-litigated contract disputes and what the pro se plaintiff characterizes as the defendants' "fraud upon the Court(s)" during this earlier litigation. Due to the plaintiff's dissatisfaction with the results of the previous cases, filed in Pennsylvania state and federal courts, he has re-filed similar claims in this district and added claims against the United States. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges civil rights, contract, and tort violations, and seeks monetary damages, a declaratory judgment, and a writ of mandamus compelling the Attorney General to conduct an investigation of the alleged violations.
This matter is before the court on the federal defendants' motion to strike the plaintiff's first amended complaint, the federal defendants' renewed motion to dismiss, and the private and state defendants' renewed motions to dismiss.*fn1 Because the federal defendants' arguments in their motion to strike are not well-substantiated by law from this circuit, the court denies this motion. In addition, because the plaintiff's claims against the federal defendants lack subject-matter jurisdiction and fail to state a claim, the court grants the federal defendants' renewed motion to dismiss. Because venue for the plaintiff's claims against the private and state defendants is improper in this district, the court grants the private and state defendants' renewed motions to dismiss. Finally, because the statute of limitations bars the plaintiff's claims against defendant Forest Hills, the court grants its renewed motion to dismiss.
In his first amended complaint, the plaintiff outlines contract disputes originating from (1) a 1989 contract between his corporation and defendant Pennsylvania to build a "box-culvert" in Clearfield, Pennsylvania; (2) a 1989 contract between his corporation and defendant Forest Hills to build storm sewers in Pennsylvania; (3) a 1989 contract with defendant Glenn involving a waterline project; and (4) a 1986 contract with defendant Pittsburgh to build a pump station. Compl. at 7, 11-12, 16-17, 20-22. The plaintiff makes vague allegations that all or some of the defendants committed "fraud upon the Court(s)" during the plaintiff's prior litigation involving these projects in Pennsylvania state and federal courts. Id. at 10-11, 15, 20, 23.
The plaintiff charges the private and state defendants with civil rights, contract, and tort violations. Id. at 25-26. In addition, the plaintiff charges that defendants Pennsylvania and the United States, through their respective judges, violated the Constitution when the judges ruled against the plaintiff. Id. at 9-10, 14-15, 19-20, 23-24. He also pleads, without specificity, that these judges conspired during the court proceedings to commit fraud and thereby deprive him of his right to a jury trial. Id. at 27. According to the plaintiff, defendant Mecham, acting through the federal judges, deprived the plaintiff of his constitutional rights by creating a policy prohibiting corporations from appearing in court pro se and conspiring with the federal judges to use this policy to block the plaintiff's access to federal courts. Id. at 6-7, 27-28. Further, the plaintiff charges that the federal judges violated the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1346, by ruling against him. Id. at 27-30.
The plaintiff asks for a writ of mandamus compelling the Attorney General to investigate the defendants' alleged conspiracy against the plaintiff. Id. at 27. Furthermore, the plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment and monetary damages. Id. at 29.
The plaintiff filed his original complaint on June 18, 2002.*fn2 On September 23, 2002, the United States filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. On October 10, 2002, after all of the defendants had filed motions to dismiss, the plaintiff filed a first amended complaint that added defendant Mecham. In response, the state and private defendants filed renewed motions to dismiss. The federal defendants, however, filed a motion to strike the first amended complaint. On June 6, 2003, the court directed the federal defendants to file a notice or motion stating whether they sought to renew their original motion to dismiss and apply it to the first amended complaint. In response, the federal defendants filed a renewed motion to dismiss that incorporates by reference the original motion to dismiss and adds grounds for the dismissal of the new claims against defendant Mecham. Finally, the plaintiff filed a motion requesting a hearing or telephone depositions on the issues of specific jurisdiction and venue.
A. The Court Denies the Federal Defendants' Motion to Strike
The federal defendants move to strike the plaintiff's first amended complaint, arguing that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 bars the plaintiff from adding a party in the first amended complaint without leave of court. Fed. Defs.' Mot. to Strike at 3-4. The D.C. Circuit, however, permits plaintiffs to amend complaints pursuant to Rule 15 "once as a matter of course" so long as the opposing party has not yet served a responsive pleading and the court has not ruled on a motion to dismiss. FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a); James V. Hurson Assocs., Inc., v. Glickman, 229 F.3d 277, 282-83 (D.C. Cir. 2000); Gov't of Guam v. Am. President Lines, 28 F.3d 142, 150 (D.C. Cir. 1994). A motion to dismiss is generally not considered to be a "responsive pleading" under Rule 15(a). Id. In addition, "[p]ro se litigants are allowed more latitude than litigants represented by counsel to correct defects in service of process and pleadings." Moore v. Agency for Int'l Dev., 994 F.2d 874, 876; James V. Hurson Assocs., 229 F.3d at 282-83.
In moving to strike the first amended complaint, the federal defendants do not cite to any cases demonstrating that Rule 21 trumps the mandate of Rule 15(a) and this circuit that a plaintiff can amend "once as a matter of course." Therefore, because this circuit favors permitting pro se plaintiffs to amend their complaints, and the amendment was of right, the court denies the federal defendants' motion to strike the first amended complaint. Moore, 994 F.2d at 876; Gov't of Guam, 28 F.3d at 150.
B. The Court Grants the Federal Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss
This court dismisses all of the plaintiff's claims against the federal defendants because the plaintiff's claims do not survive the federal defendants' renewed motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and (6). Evaluating the plaintiff's claims against defendant Mecham, the court determines that these claims are so "patently insubstantial" that the court lacks jurisdiction over them. Next, the court concludes that the plaintiff's claims against the defendant United States fail to state cognizable claims because the judges are protected by judicial immunity. Finally, the plaintiff's requests for a writ of mandamus and declaratory relief fail to state cognizable claims because these forms of relief are not legally permissible.
1. Legal Standard for a Motion ...