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Qualls v. Rumsfeld

January 24, 2006

DAVID W. QUALLS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DONALD RUMSFELD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on the defendants' Motion [44] to Dismiss. Upon consideration of the defendants' motion, the opposition thereto, the reply brief, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court concludes that the defendants' motion will be granted. The Court agrees with the defendants' contention that plaintiffs have failed to state any claim upon which relief may be granted. Moreover, plaintiff Qualls' challenge is mooted by the fact that Qualls voluntarily extended his period of service in the military.

BACKGROUND

On July 7, 2003, David Qualls enlisted in the Army National Guard in Arkansas. Initially his enlistment term was one year. But on October 10, 2003 Qualls' duty status changed "from voluntary service to involuntarily extended." On October 19, 2003, he was ordered to active duty for two years in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Qualls arrived in Iraq on March 5, 2004. On February 1, 2005, Qualls voluntarily extended his expiration of term of service ("ETS") in the National Guard for an additional six years, from January 31, 2005 until January 31, 2011. Because Qualls voluntarily re-enlisted with the National Guard and the Army Reserve, he collected a $15,000 re-enlistment bonus. On May 2, 2005, Qualls was released from active duty service in Iraq and returned with his unit to Arkansas.

Rafael Perez entered military service in 1999 and served four years on active duty. On August 19, 2003, near the end of his active duty term, Perez signed an agreement to enlist in the Army National Guard for two years, six months and six days -- until June 26, 2006 -- a period that constituted his remaining service obligation. In accordance with his enlistment, Perez served the first year of active National Guard duty in Arizona. On September 22, 2003, Perez was released from active duty in and began his Reserve obligation. On August 25, 2004, he was ordered to active duty in Iraq for 545 days. Perez is scheduled to return to the United States early in 2006, before his military service obligation expires on June 26, 2006.

Qualls and seven "John Doe" plaintiffs filed suit on December 6, 2004 challenging the military's "stop loss" policy. Qualls, who was in the United States on temporary leave from service in Iraq at that time, also sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against his return to duty, which the Court denied after a hearing. On March 4, 2005, defendants filed a motion to obtain the identities of the seven "John Doe" plaintiffs, and on April 27, 2005, the Court ordered that those plaintiffs be identified. On May 10, 2005, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that dropped six of the "John Doe" plaintiffs and identified only Qualls and Perez. After a status conference on August 31, 2005, the Court ordered defendants to file a motion to dismiss or answer the amended complaint. (See Order dated August, 31, 2005.) This motion followed.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction. In turn, the court has an "affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority," See Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F. Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001), which includes the obligation to determine whether the plaintiffs' claims are moot. See Mine Reclamation Corp. v. FERC, 30 F.3d 1519, 1522 (D.C. Cir.1994). A court may consider material other than the allegations of the complaint in determining whether it has jurisdiction, but must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. See Jerome Stevens Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253-54 (D.C.Cir.2005).

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), this Court must construe the allegations and facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must grant the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, (1957); Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C.Cir.2004) (citing Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C.Cir.1994)). However, the Court need not accept asserted inferences or conclusory allegations that are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276. The Court will dismiss a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) only if the defendant can demonstrate "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46.

Defendants argue that plaintiff Qualls' claim is moot because he voluntarily re-enlisted in the military in February 2005. Additionally, defendants argue that plaintiffs do not state any claim for which relief may be granted. Plaintiffs respond that this Court has already held that a "live dispute" exists as to whether Qualls' contract had any language allowing for involuntary extension of his term. Qualls also contends that the claims are not moot because his fraudulent extension of his National Guard "Try One" contract resulted in "draconian economic consequences" that left Qualls with no other option but to re-enlist in 2005. (Pls.' Opp'n 6.) The Court is not persuaded by plaintiffs' arguments.

B. Mootness

Federal courts may decide only "actual, ongoing controversies." Clarke v. United States, 915 F.2d 699, 700-01 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (en banc) (quoting Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 317 (1988)). "Even where litigation poses a live controversy when filed, the doctrine [of mootness] requires a federal court to refrain from deciding it if 'events have so transpired that the decision will neither presently affect the parties' rights nor have a more-than-speculative chance of affecting them in the future.'" Id. at 701 (citation omitted).

By voluntarily re-enlisting, Qualls' entire case has been mooted. His initial term of service in the National Guard ran from his enlistment on July 7, 2003 until July 6, 2004. This one-year term of service was extended pursuant to the "stop loss" policy. The complaint was filed in December 2004, and Qualls' claim was an "actual, ongoing controversy" until February 2005. But when Qualls voluntarily re-enlisted in the military in February 2005, his challenge to the involuntary extension of his enlistment under "stop loss" became ...


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