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Gerald Stone v. Eric Holder

May 9, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy Berman Jackson United States District Judge


Plaintiff Gerald Stone, proceeding pro se, has filed three separate complaints with this Court. Stone v. Dep't of the Treasury, No. 11-cv-1992; Stone v. HUD, No. 11-cv-02070; Stone v. Holder, No. 12-cv-0010.*fn1 Defendants each move to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Stone v. Dep't of the Treasury, 11-1992, [Dkt. # 3]; Stone v. HUD, 11-2070, [Dkt. # 4], Stone v. Holder, 12-0010, [Dkt. # 4]. Because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over these cases under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the Court will grant the motions to dismiss.


A. Factual and Procedural Background

All three cases before the Court relate to plaintiff's criminal conviction in 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and the terms of his sentence pursuant to a written plea agreement. That case has a long history. Plaintiff pled guilty to two counts of a thirty-six count indictment: conspiracy to commit theft from an organization receiving federal assistance and tax evasion. See Stone v. United States, Nos. 3:09-cv-1862-N, 3:04-CR-318-N(02), 2010 WL 2403720, at *1 (N.D. Tex. May 6, 2010). On February 1, 2007, the court sentenced plaintiff to twenty-four months imprisonment on both counts to run concurrently, three years of supervised release, restitution to be paid to HUD, and forfeiture of certain assets. Id. Stone appealed his conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing that there were insufficient facts to support his guilty plea and conviction. United States v. Hildenbrand, 527 F.3d 466, 470 (5th Cir. 2008) (appealing conviction of plaintiff and his wife/co-defendant Barbara Hildenbrand). The Fifth Circuit affirmed Stone's conviction. Id. at 478--79.

Plaintiff then filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2225, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction to convict and sentence him and that the restitution and forfeiture orders were improper. See Stone, 2010 WL 2403720, at *1, 5. The magistrate judge denied plaintiff's section 2255 motion. Id. at *6. The district court adopted the magistrate judge's findings, conclusions, and recommendation. Stone v. United States, Nos. 3:09-cv-1862-N, 3:04-cr-318-N(02), 2010 WL 2404281 (N.D. Tex. Jun. 15, 2010).

Plaintiff filed another appeal, which challenged the forfeiture order. United States v. Stone, 435 Fed. App'x 320 (5th Cir. 2011). The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that plaintiff had no interest in the forfeited property when the district court entered the forfeiture order. Id. at 322. Plaintiff then filed a civil complaint in this Court against Secretary of HUD Shaun Donovan, seeking several declaratory judgments regarding the existence of the Single Family Affordable Housing Program and its operations. Stone v. Donovan, No. 11-cv-01282. Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed that case with prejudice.

B. The Cases Currently Before the Court

The first case pending in this Court is an action against the Department of the Treasury seeking the return of property seized by the Department pursuant to a judicial forfeiture order. Stone v. Dep't of the Treasury, No. 11-1992. Plaintiff alleges that the Department of Treasury had no jurisdiction to seize his property. Compl. (Treasury) ¶ 2.

The second case is an action against HUD seeking return of restitution payments plaintiff made to that agency pursuant to the plea agreement in his criminal case. Stone v. HUD, No. 11-02070. Plaintiff alleges that HUD violated the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 and that it was "arbitrary and capricious" to accept restitution payments from him. Compl. (HUD) ¶¶ 2, 3.

The third case is an action against Eric Holder, Jr., in his official capacity as United States Attorney General. Stone v. Holder, No. 12-cv-0010. Plaintiff alleges that the Department of Justice failed to establish that the federal court in Texas had subject matter jurisdiction to sentence him. Compl. (Holder) ¶ 3.


Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); Shekoyan v. Sibley Int'l Corp., 217 F. Supp. 2d 59, 63 (D.D.C. 2002). 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); see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. EPA, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004) ("As a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with an examination of our jurisdiction.") (citation omitted). Because "subject-matter jurisdiction is an 'Art[icle] III as well as a statutory requirement . . . no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court.'" Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003), quoting Ins. Corp. of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982). When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, unlike when deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court "is not limited to the allegations of the complaint." Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d 227, 241 (D.C. Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds, 482 U.S. 64 (1987). Rather, a court "may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case." Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 104 F. Supp. 2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000), citing Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

Additionally, where a plaintiff proceeds pro se, "the Court must take particular care to construe the plaintiff's filings liberally, for such complaints are held 'to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Cheeks v. Fort Myers Constr. Co., 722 F. Supp. 2d 93, ...

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