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Washington v. Geren

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


April 30, 2010

JAMES A. WASHINGTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PETE GEREN, SECRETARY OF THE ARMY, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Robertson United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pro se plaintiff James A. Washington has filed a motion seeking leave to amend his complaint a second time in order to assert a breach of contract claim. Because this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the breach of contract claim and it is the sole remaining claim, it will be dismissed without prejudice to file it in the court where jurisdiction would be proper, the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Background

Washington sued his former employer, the Secretary of the Army, alleging that the defendant had discriminated and retaliated against him. See Am. Compl. The retaliation and discrimination claims did not survive the defendant's dispositive motion. See Mem. Op. and Order (Dec. 18, 2009). Among the adverse actions Washington alleged, was the "[v]violation of [a] 2004 . . . . Federal Court settlement agreement prior to July 2007." Am. Compl. ¶ 7R. As a retaliation or discrimination claim, the alleged breach of the prior settlement had not been exhausted and could not proceed. Id. Liberally construed, however, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the allegation that the defendant had violated a 2004 federal court settlement could be read as a breach of contract claim, even if wholly conclusory. Therefore, the plaintiff was granted time to amend his complaint to state a breach of contract claim. See Mem. Op. and Order (Dec. 18, 2009).

The plaintiff filed a proposed amended complaint entitled "Breach of Contract," that seeks $900,000 and other relief. See Docket Entry 33 at 3-22. The defendant opposes the motion to amend, arguing that this court lacks jurisdiction over the newly stated claim, and that in any case the newly stated claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See generally, Sur-Reply.

Discussion

Contract actions against the United States in excess of $10,000 fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States Court of Federal Claims.

The United States Court of Federal Claims shall have jurisdiction to render judgment upon any claim against the United States founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress or any regulation of an executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in cases not sounding in tort. For the purpose of this paragraph, an express or implied contract with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchanges, Marine Corps Exchanges, Coast Guard Exchanges, or Exchange Councils of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall be considered an express or implied contract with the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1491; see also 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2) (providing, among other things, that a district court may exercise jurisdiction over contract claims against the United States only if they do not exceed $10,000 in amount). The District of Columbia Circuit has held that "the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims is exclusive when a plaintiff seeks more than $10,000 in damages." Greenhill v. Spellings, 482 F.3d 569, 572 (D.C. Cir. 2007). In this case, because the only remaining claim, as amended, "explicitly . . . seeks money damages in excess of $10,000" for a breach of contract with the federal government, "jurisdiction rests exclusively within the Court of Federal Claims." Id. 482 F.3d at 573. See also Franklin-Mason v. Penn, 616 F. Supp. 2d 97, 100 (D.D.C. 2009) (determining that the Court of Federal Claims had exclusive jurisdiction over the plaintiff's action for breach of prior settlement agreement and noting that the discussion of a district court's ancillary jurisdiction in Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 381-82 (1994) was not in the context of a federal defendant).*fn1

Therefore, because this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the contract claim for $900,000 in damages and other relief, the claim for breach of contract will be dismissed without prejudice and the plaintiff may file his claim for breach of contract in the United States Court of Federal Claims. All other claims have already been dismissed. See Mem. Op. and Order (Dec. 18, 2009). Therefore, this case will be dismissed.

A separate order accompanies this memorandum opinion.


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