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Johannes Weber v. United States Department of State

July 25, 2012

JOHANNES WEBER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Johannes Weber, proceeding pro se, brings this action against defendant United States Department of State ("State Department"), asserting that he has been improperly denied a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN). The State Department has moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Weber, who was born on December 24, 1954, in the State of Vermont (Def.'s Mem. in Support of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem."), Ex. 1, at 2, June 11, 2012 (Apr. 14, 2009 Memorandum of Vice Consul Shigh L. Sapp ("Sapp Mem."))), is a dual citizen of Germany and the United States. (Compl. at 1, Apr. 6, 2012.) He "has a criminal history which includes a 1995 conviction on three counts of wire fraud and a 2001 conviction on one count of obstructing justice." Weber v. United States, No. 11-cv-0061, 2011 WL 96515, at *1 (D.D.C. Jan. 11, 2011). In 1997, Weber violated the terms of supervised release by fleeing abroad. See generally United States v. Weber, 320 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2003). In 2004, while incarcerated, Weber made his first attempt to renounce U.S. nationality.*fn1

On April 8, 2009, *fn2 Weber appeared before Shigh L. Sapp, a vice consul at the United States consulate-general in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. There, Weber swore an oath renouncing his U.S. citizenship, signed several forms, and surrendered his U.S. passport, which had been issued on October 21, 2008. (See Compl. at 1; id. at 4 (photocopy of Weber's passport); Sapp Mem. at 2.)

In an internal State Department memorandum dated April 14, 2009, Sapp detailed what happened at the consulate. Sapp wrote that although at the interview Weber "appeared to be acting of his own free will, without undue influence from others" and stated that he understood that a renunciation of citizenship was irrevocable, Weber also "displayed other signs that bring into question his mental capacity to formulate the intent required to lose nationality." (Sapp Mem. at 2.) Specifically, Sapp noted that in several phone conversations prior to the interview, Weber had been "very aggressive toward staff," expressing a desire to renounce citizenship immediately and a distaste for bureaucratic "red tape." (Id.) At the interview, according to Sapp, Weber "displayed belligerent behaviors, including loud mouthing and verbalizing great resentment toward the U.S. government," claiming that the government "kidnapped him and held him against his will for several years." (Id.) Sapp further noted that shortly after the interview, the consulate received an email from Weber, in which he wrote that "his lawyer wanted him to point out that he had been an inpatient under the care of the Veterans Administration's mental health unit in Perryville, Maryland six weeks prior to the interview," that he had "received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder for the past seven years," and that he had taken medication and seen a physician for treatment. (Id.) On the basis of these facts, Sapp recommended that a CLN not be issued. (Id.)

Sometime after this interview, perhaps in June 2009, Weber received a certified letter from the State Department, with his passport enclosed, informing him that it would not issue a CLN. (Compl. at 2.) On June 30, 2009, at 6:50 a.m., Weber sent a two-paragraph email to the consulate. In a rambling passage, Weber notes that he received the State Department's letter and states that "I disagree with this finding." (Def.'s Mem. Ex. 2, at 2.) Apparently referring to his earlier convictions, Weber states that "your government kidnapped me from New Zealand" and he was "falsely imprisoned in the United States for 84 months." (Id.) Weber added:

I am making a claim against the United States government for ten million dollars for false imprisonment and other criminal acts against me, and I am making a claim against the property held by the U.S. government in Hamburg Germany the U.S. consulate property, which is no longer a consulate. I will take possesion of that property to compensate me for my damages by your government,s criminal actions against me. (Id.) (errors in original).

On April 6, 2012, Weber -- now listing a post office box in Phuket, Thailand, as his address -- filed this action, asking this Court to "under the law . . . order the United States Department of State to issue a certificate of loss of United States Nationality." (Compl. at 3.) Weber asserts that his desire to renounce was fully voluntary, that at the time of renunciation he was "not under the influence of any mind-altering drugs or alcohol," and that he "[d]id not suffer from any mental defects and was of sound mind." (Id. at 2.) He expresses several times his strong desire not to be a U.S. citizen. (Id. at 2--3.) ("This matter is becoming silly . . . . It is pretty clear that plaintiff does not wish to be a United States citizen any longer and never asked for U.S. citizenship in the first place"). Weber claims that he has "sworn an oath of allegiance to the Federal Republic of Germany," has his legal residence in Hamburg, is registered with the German authorities, votes in German national elections, and pays German taxes. (Id. at 2.) He also claims that he has not filed and does not pay U.S. income taxes, vote in U.S. elections, or owe military service to the U.S. government, and states that he has "no intention of ever residing in the United States." (Id. at 2; id. at 5--6 ("Weber Aff.").*fn3 ) Finally, Weber claims that in 2011 he accepted employment with the Iranian National Oil Company. (Id. at 5.)

On July 11, 2012, the State Department filed the pending motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment. On July 5, 2012, Weber filed an untitled document which this Court construes as a response in opposition to the State Department's motion, and on July 16, 2012, the State Department filed a reply. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant defendant's motion.

ANALYSIS

I. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

United States law provides that a U.S. national "shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing" any of a number of expatriating acts "with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality." 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a). When a U.S. national performs an expatriating act, he is "presumed to have done so voluntarily, but such presumption may be rebutted upon a showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the act or acts committed or performed were not done voluntarily." Id. § 1481(b); see also Lozada Colon v. U.S. Dep't of State, 2 F. Supp. 2d 43, 45 (D.D.C. 1998) ("expatriation depends not only on the performance of an expatriating act, but also upon a finding that the individual performed such act 'voluntarily' and 'with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality'").

The specific type of enumerated expatriating act here is "making a formal renunciation of nationality before a . . . consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State." 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(5).*fn4 When such a renunciation is taken -- or indeed "whenever a . . . consular officer of the United States has reason to believe that a person while in a foreign state has lost his United States nationality" -- that officer "shall certify the facts upon which such belief is based to the Department of State, in writing, under regulations prescribed by the ...


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