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Keith R. Caldwell, Sr v. Elena Kagan

May 31, 2012

KEITH R. CALDWELL, SR.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELENA KAGAN, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Keith R. Caldwell, Sr., has filed suit against numerous federal officials, as well as Argosy University and its president, in response to perceived injustice and judicial misconduct stemming from previous cases before judges of this District, the D.C. Circuit, and the United States Tax Court. Now before the Court are three motions by the United States Attorney's Office, the other federal defendants, and Argosy University and its president to dismiss all the claims in the case.

I. Background

Caldwell's journey through the federal court system began in a case before the U.S. TaX Court regarding his federal tax liabilities. Caldwell v. Comm'r, No. 2008-77, 2008 WL 2595916 (T.C. July 1, 2008). In that case, the IRS conceded all issues but administrative and litigation costs, and the court denied Caldwell's motion for $100,000 in litigation costs for pro se representation. Id. at *3-4. Caldwell then sued the Tax Court, presiding Judge Panuthos, IRS Commissioner Shulman, and two IRS employees for perceived errors in the handling of the tax court case. Caldwell v. U.S. Tax Court, No. 08-1427 (D.D.C. Apr. 16, 2009). Judge Kennedy granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, id. at 9, and a D.C. Circuit panel consisting of Judges Ginsburg, Griffith, and Brown affirmed the dismissal. Caldwell v. U.S. Tax Court, 360 Fed. Appx. 161, 162 (D.C. Cir. 2010). Caldwell next petitioned the United States Supreme Court to consider his case. See Pet. for Cert., Caldwell v. U.S. Tax Court, No. 09-9137 (U.S. Jan. 25, 2010). Solicitor General Kagan did not respond to Caldwell's petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court, see Compl. at 18, and the Court denied certiorari. 130 S. Ct. 2404 (2010).

Caldwell then filed suit against now-Justice Kagan, Attorney General Holder, and Judges Ginsburg, Griffith, Brown, and Kennedy challenging their handling of his suit against the U.S. Tax Court in the district court and on appeal. Caldwell v. Kagan, No. 11-00571 (D.D.C. Apr. 18, 2011), aff'd, No. 11-5153 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 28, 2011). Caldwell argued that each of the judges acted improperly in dismissing his case, and also asserted that the lack of a response to his petition for certiorari by Justice Kagan and Attorney General Holder led to denial of the petition and therefore infringed his constitutional right to due process. Id. at 3-4. Judge Huvelle found that Caldwell lacked standing to sue Justice Kagan acting in her capacity as Solicitor General and Attorney General Holder, and found that suits against federal judges acting in their judicial capacity were barred by absolute immunity. Accordingly, she dismissed the case.

Caldwell also had a second suit pending before Judge Huvelle. See Caldwell v. Argosy Univ., No. 11-00572 (D.D.C. July 12, 2011). There, Caldwell sued Argosy University and its president for wrongful dismissal and failure to properly act on Caldwell's allegations that a student submitted a fraudulent dissertation. Caldwell also sued the Department of Education alleging a failure to properly evaluate Argosy University for compliance with federal regulations for awarding degrees. Because Caldwell failed to state a legal cause of action under which he could be granted relief, Judge Huvelle dismissed the complaint without prejudice for failure to comply with the pleading requirements specified in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) without prejudice, but noted that if Caldwell filed a new complaint that merely "recycled" his previous complaint, it could be dismissed with prejudice. Id. at 4-5.

Following these unfavorable rulings, Caldwell filed criminal complaints against Judge Huvelle with the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, the FBI Washington Field Office, and the United States Attorney's Office. Compl. at 24-25. He also filed a judicial misconduct complaint with the Judicial Counsel of the District of Columbia Circuit. Id. at 23. In each complaint, Caldwell alleged that Judge Huvelle's dismissal of his cases amounted to judicial misconduct. Id. at 21-23. Chief Judge Sentelle dismissed the complaint before the Judicial Counsel, see Fed. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [Docket Entry #12] Ex. 9 at 2, and no agency has acted on any of Caldwell's other complaints.

Caldwell filed his present complaint against Justice Kagan, Attorney General Holder, Judges Sentelle, Brown, Ginsburg, Griffith, Huvelle, and Kennedy, IRS Commissioner Shulman, IRS attorney William Gregg, agent #5278 of the FBI Washington Field Office, Eric Johnson of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and the United States Attorney's Office, as well as Argosy University and its president. Caldwell's complaint alleges that each of the defendants acted improperly and denied him due process of law.

II. Motions to Dismiss Claims Against Federal Defendants

The United States Attorney's Office and the remaining federal defendants have filed motions to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), arguing that the plaintiff lacks standing against some defendants, some enjoy immunity against plaintiff's claims, several of plaintiff's claims are barred by res judicata, and some claims fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons described below, these motions will be granted.

A.Claims Against Justice Kagan, Attorney General Holder, and Secretary Arne DuncanPlaintiff claims that Justice Kagan, while acting in her role as Solicitor General in 2010, denied him due process of law by declining to respond to his petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court. He argues that the Solicitor General's refusal to respond was "to serve her personal interest as she awaited nomination to fill a vacancy in that court." Compl. at 18. Plaintiff also claims that Attorney General Eric Holder "did not serve the best interest of the United States" when he "failed to provide oversight of active cases handled by Kagan" while Justice Kagan was in the process of being nominated to the Supreme Court. Id. Plaintiff asserts he was "irreparably harmed" and denied due process of law by the Supreme Court's decision to deny the petition. Id. at 18-19. Finally, plaintiff claims that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan denied him due process of law by "sponsoring the dubious motion" that led to the dismissal of his case against the Department and Argosy University. Id. at 25. These defendants argue that plaintiff lacks standing to sue them because their actions do not have a sufficient causal connection to the harms plaintiff claims, and that, in the alternative, plaintiff fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

Before this Court may entertain the merits of his claims, plaintiff, as the party invoking federal jurisdiction, must establish that he has the requisite standing to sue. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). To establish the "irreducible constitutional minimum of standing," a plaintiff must allege (1) an "injury in fact" which is "(a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical"; (2) "a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of"; and (3) a likelihood "that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

A motion to dismiss for lack of standing constitutes a motion under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because "the defect of standing is a defect in subject matter jurisdiction." Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). "[I]n passing on a motion to dismiss, whether on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or for failure to state a cause of action, the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993); Phillips v. Bureau of Prisons, 591 F.2d 966, 968 (D.C. Cir. 1979). In other words, the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be presumed true, and the plaintiff must be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236; Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000). At the same time, however, the Court need not accept as true "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation," nor need it accept inferences that are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

Plaintiff's claims against Justice Kagan and Attorney General Holder are essentially identical to the claims he made before Judge Huvelle in Caldwell v. Kagan, No. 11-00571 (D.D.C. Apr. 18, 2011). Judge Huvelle concluded that plaintiff's injury was not "fairly . . . traceable" to the challenged actions of the defendants, because the Supreme Court, not the Solicitor General, denied plaintiff's petition for certiorari. For the same reason, any failure of the Attorney General to supervise the Solicitor General's actions lacked a causal connection to the denial of plaintiff's petition. Because plaintiff has not claimed any additional theory of causal connection between his ...


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