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Miller v. United States

July 30, 2007

REBEKAH H. MILLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos. 5, 6

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYINGTHE PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONFOR LEAVE TO AMEND; GRANTINGTHE DEFENDANT'S MOTIONTO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her complaint and the defendant's motion to dismiss. The plaintiff brings suit against the federal government alleging violations of § 7431 of the U.S. tax code through the unlawful disclosure of confidential return information. Because the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims, the court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss. Because granting the plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint is futile, the court denies the plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint.

II. BACKGROUND

On July 10, 2006, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the United States pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7433 claiming that the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") wrongfully disclosed her tax return information to the public. Compl., Miller v. United States, No. 06-cv-01250 (D.D.C.), 6-12. On August 28, 2006, the plaintiff filed a second suit against the United States based on the same alleged misconduct, only this time complaining that the defendant had violated 26 U.S.C. § 7431. Compl. at ¶ 1. The § 7433 and § 7431 actions proceeded in parallel until the former was dismissed for failure to state a claim on July 19, 2007.

In her remaining § 7431 suit, the plaintiff seeks damages for "substantial personal embarrassment, loss of good will, [] loss in credit . . . . and actual damages totaling $65,000." Am. Compl. at 19. The court permitted an amendment to the plaintiff's complaint on September 18, 2006 because no responsive pleadings had yet been filed. See FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a). On November 6, 2006, the defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff's amended complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The plaintiff did not file a response, but on January 22, 2007, she filed a motion to amend her complaint again. The court now turns to the merits of the government's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's § 7431 claim and the plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint for a second time.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review for Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-89 (1938); see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004)(noting that "[a]s a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with an examination of our jurisdiction").

Because "subject-matter jurisdiction is an 'Art. III as well as a statutory requirement[,] no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court.'" Akinseye v. Dist. of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Ins. Corp. of Ir., Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)). On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has subject-matter jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). The court may dismiss a complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Empagran S.A. v. F. Hoffman-LaRoche, Ltd., 315 F.3d 338, 343 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).

Because subject-matter jurisdiction focuses on the court's power to hear the claim, however, the court must give the plaintiff's factual allegations closer scrutiny when resolving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion than would be required for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 69 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F. Supp. 2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). Moreover, the court is not limited to the allegations contained in the complaint. Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d 227, 241 (D.C. Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds, 482 U.S. 64 (1987). Instead, to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the claim, the court may consider materials outside the pleadings. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

B. The Court Lacks Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

The plaintiff brings the instant, surviving suit under 26 U.S.C. § 7431, which grants an actionable privacy right to any taxpayer whose tax return information is improperly disclosed by "any officer or employee of the United States, knowingly, or by reason of negligence." 26 U.S.C. § 7431. She seeks damages resulting from "substantial mental and emotional distress," allegedly caused by wrongful disclosures made in bad ...


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