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Cornell v. Kellner

March 25, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge


Plaintiff Dan R. Cornell, an Arizona resident, proceeding pro se, brings this action against Russell Kellner and Gerald Carter, Revenue Officers for the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), and "4 or 5 John Doe" federal employees*fn1 (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging various causes of action under the Fifth Amendment and other statutes.*fn2 This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [Dkt. No. 4]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted.


Plaintiff contends that because he is not a "taxpayer," Defendants violated the Fifth Amendment by sending him letters "inviting him to volunteer payment of federal taxes." Plaintiff further alleges that because he is not a "taxpayer," Defendants' actions in filing "Notices of Levy" and garnishing his bank account and insurance policy for failure to pay taxes also violated the Fifth Amendment.*fn4

On December 7, 2005 and January 6, 2006, the IRS levied Plaintiff's bank account for unpaid taxes accrued in 1998 and 1999. On January 17, 2006, the IRS levied Plaintiff's insurance account for the same unpaid taxes from 1998 and 1999. Defendant Nelson was the revenue officer for these three transactions. On June 1, 2006, Defendants removed Plaintiff's car from his home. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Kellner informed Plaintiff that he would return it for a "ransom" of $6,713.14. Compl. ¶ 29. Plaintiff alleges that in each of these transactions, Defendants were acting outside the scope of their authority as revenue officers. Plaintiff further claims that Defendants used "bogus documents without certification" to illegally seize his property for their personal use. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 10.


On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over each defendant. Crane v. New York Zoological Soc., 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990). In order to satisfy this burden, a plaintiff must establish the Court's jurisdiction over each defendant through specific allegations in his complaint. Kopff v. Battaglia, 425 F. Supp. 2d 76, 80-81 (D.D.C. 2006). Additionally, the plaintiff cannot rely on conclusory allegations; rather, he must allege specific facts on which personal jurisdiction is based. First Chicago Int'l v. United Exchange Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1378 (D.C. Cir. 1988)(emphasis added).

Courts in this jurisdiction must liberally construe pleadings submitted by a pro se party. See United States v. Palmer, 296 F.3d 1135, 1143 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), for the proposition that the allegations of a pro se litigant, "however inartfully pleaded," are subject to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers").

However, there are limits to the latitude a court must afford pro se parties. A court may not, for instance, permit pro se litigants to disregard the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. United States. v. Funds From Prudential Sec., 362 F. Supp. 2d 75, 82 (D.D.C. 2005). Nor may a court entertain "what[ever] claims a [pro se litigant] may or may not want to assert" without an adequate jurisdictional basis. Jarrell v. Tisch, 656 F. Supp. 237, 239 (D.D.C. 1987).


A. Plaintiff Has Failed to Establish that Assertion of Personal Jurisdiction over the Defendants Would Meet the Requirements of Constitutional Due Process*fn5

Plaintiff has brought this action against government officials operating in their individual capacities.*fn6 Because Bivens suits are suits brought against government officials in their individual, rather than their official capacities, "personal jurisdiction is necessary to maintain a Bivens claim." Robertson v. Merola, 895 F. Supp. 1, 3 (D.D.C. 1995)(citing Delgado v. Bureau of Prisons, 727 F. Supp 24 (D.D.C. 1989); Lawrence v. Acree, 79 F.R.D. 669, 670 (D.D.C. 1978)).

Our Court of Appeals has set forth a two-part inquiry for establishing personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant.*fn7 First, a court must "examine whether jurisdiction is applicable under the state's long-arm statute," and second, "determine whether a finding of jurisdiction satisfies the constitutional requirements of due ...

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