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Walter Bernard Morton, Jr v. J. Bolyard

September 9, 2011

WALTER BERNARD MORTON, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
J. BOLYARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss. Because sovereign immunity bars claims against the defendants in their official capacities, the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants in their individual capacities, and because plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing this action, defendants' motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

In the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, plaintiff was convicted "by a . . . jury on charges of second-degree murder while armed and related weapons offenses." Morton v. Burns, No. 01 CA 6368, 2002 D.C. Super. LEXIS 69, at *1 (D.C. Super. Ct. May 28, 2002). The Superior Court imposed a sentence of 21 years to life imprisonment, and its "judgment and commitment order . . . committed the plaintiff to the custody of the Attorney General of the United States." Id., 2002 D.C. Super. LEXIS 69, at *2. Plaintiff has been transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), and now is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary Hazelton ("USP Hazelton") in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.

The claims plaintiff raises in this action arise from his employment by UNICOR while in BOP custody.*fn1 He alleges that defendants have denied him promotions and back pay for his UNICOR job. See Compl. at 11.*fn2 In addition, plaintiff alleges that defendants have denied him good time credit not only for vocational training through UNICOR but also for educational training through a correspondence course taken at his own expense. Id. at 11-12. He "is asking for all Educational Good Time to be awarded . . . and also [$] 3,750.00 for the back pay for 19 . . . months, and also Twenty Five thousand dollars for the harasment [sic] of being denied of pay raises." Id. at 12.*fn3

The statutory bases for plaintiff's claims are not clear. Plaintiff suggests, however, that defendants' actions "constitute harassment and biased hate crime." Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 2 (emphasis removed). He does not name the United States or a federal government agency as a defendant, and the Court presumes, then, that plaintiff brings this action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which recognizes "an implied private action for damages against federal officers alleged to have violated [a person's] constitutional rights." Corr. Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 66 (2001); see Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 254 n.2 (2006) ("[A] Bivens action is the federal analog to suits brought against state officials under . . . 42 U.S.C. § 1983.").

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants, all of whom are federal employees, move to dismiss the complaint. They argue that sovereign immunity bars plaintiff's claims against them in their official capacities, that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them in their individual capacities, and that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this action as is required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).*fn4 See Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Fed. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Compl. ("Defs.' Mem.") at 6-13, 14-17.

A. Sovereign Immunity

To the extent that plaintiff sues the defendants in their official capacities, his claims are treated as if they were brought against the federal government itself. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) ("Official capacity suits . . . generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent," such that "an official capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity."). "It is axiomatic that the United States may not be sued without its consent and that the existence of consent is a prerequisite for jurisdiction." United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212 (1983). Notwithstanding plaintiff's assertions to the contrary, see Pl.'s Opp'n at 6-7, "[a]bsent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit." Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) (citations omitted); see Dep't of the Army v. Blue Fox, Inc., 525 U.S. 255, 260 (1999). Plaintiff cannot avoid this bar by naming government employees as defendants instead of the agencies for which they work. See Clark v. Library of Congress, 750 F.2d 89, 103 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (stating that sovereign immunity "bar[s] suits for money damages against officials in their official capacity absent a specific waiver by the government") (emphasis in original).

The Court concludes that sovereign immunity bars plaintiff's claims against defendants in their official capacities.

B. Personal Jurisdiction

Defendants argue that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them in their individual capacities. Defs.' Mem. at 11-12. It does not appear that defendants are persons "domiciled in, organized under the laws of, or maintaining [their] principal place of business in, the District of Columbia" over whom "[a] District of Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction." D.C. CODE § 13-422. Rather, in order "to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident, the Court must examine whether jurisdiction is applicable under the relevant long-arm statute, D.C. CODE § 13-423, and must also determine whether jurisdiction satisfies the requirements of due process." Boland v. Fortis Const. Co., LLC, __ F. Supp. 2d __, __, 2011 WL 2685612, at *5 (D.D.C. July 12, 2011) (citing GTE New Media Servs., Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000)).

The long-arm statute allows a court in the District of Columbia to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant with regard to a claim ...


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