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Skinner v. United States

March 6, 2007

FRANK A. SKINNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer this action. Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court will transfer this action to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that, while exercising in the gym at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia ("USP Atlanta"), he sustained "a personal injury to [his] testicles -- groin area and leg -- left side." Compl. at 2a.*fn1 Generally, he alleges that officers and staff of the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") failed to provide adequate medical treatment for his injury, not only while plaintiff was incarcerated at USP Atlanta, but also after his April 2005 transfer to the United States Penitentiary in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia ("USP Hazelton"). Id. In addition, plaintiff challenges a BOP policy pursuant to which inmates are charged for medical service. Id. He brings this action against the United States of America under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), see 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671 et seq., and against BOP officials and staff both in their official capacities and in their individual capacities pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Id. at 3 & Attach. (June 13, 2005 letter acknowledging receipt of Administrative Tort Claim Number TRT-MXR-2005-03222). He demands monetary damages of $1 million. Id. at 3.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff names ten individuals as defendants to this action. With the exception of BOP's Director, Harley Lappin, none of these defendants appears to have any professional or personal connection with the District of Columbia. Rather, these defendants work at BOP offices or correctional facilities in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, Atlanta, Georgia, or Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.

A. Service of Process

Defendants argue that service has not been perfected against defendants Ramirez or Yark*fn2 in their official capacities, and that service has not been perfected on any of the individual defendants in their individual capacities. Defs.' Mot. at 10-12. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendants move to dismiss the complaint as against defendants Ramirez and Yark in their official capacities, and as against all these defendants in their individual capacities for lack of service of process. See id. at 5, 11.

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this action. He relies, then, on the Clerk of Court and the United States Marshals Service to effect service on his behalf. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d); Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(c)(2). No pro se plaintiff who depends on the Clerk of Court and the United States Marshals Service to effect service of process should be penalized for a court officer's failure or mistake in properly effecting service of process. See Mondy v. Secretary of the Army, 845 F.2d 1051, 1060 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (MacKinnon, J. concurring). Accordingly, the Court will deny defendants' motion to dismiss for defective service of process.

B. Personal Jurisdiction

Defendants argue that plaintiff fails to allege "facts necessary to substantiate in personam jurisdiction in this Court." Defs.' Mot. at 6. Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, they move to dismiss all the individual defendants in their individual capacities from this suit. Id. at 7.

A District of Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who is "domiciled in, organized under the laws of, or maintaining [a] principal place of business in, the District of Columbia as to any claim for relief." D.C. Code § 13-422. All the individual defendants are BOP employees, and none is alleged to be domiciled in the District of Columbia. See Compl. at 2-2a. Although BOP's Director "works in the District of Columbia[, he] resides outside the District." Fornshill Decl. ¶ 4.

The Court engages in a two-part inquiry in order to determine whether it may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. First, the Court must determine whether jurisdiction may be exercised under the District's long-arm statute. GTE New Media Serv., Inc. v. Bell South Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Second, the Court must determine whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction satisfies due process requirements. Id. (citing United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995)).

Under the District's long-arm statute, a District of Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a ...


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