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Michelle Evans Jones v. United States of America


October 2, 2012


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


Plaintiff Michelle E. Jones brings this action against defendants, United States of America and several unnamed parties, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3) and (b)(4), challenging a judgment of conviction based on the belief that the trial court "allowed fraud to be put upon the court thereby leaving the court in want of subject matter jurisdiction." Pl.'s Mot. for Relief at 6.*fn1 The judgment at issue is the criminal conviction and sentence entered against "defendants in error Tony B. Pough, Joseph B. Brunson and Timothy McQueen" by Chief Judge Margaret B. Seymour in the District of South Carolina. Id. at 1-3.*fn2 The Court will dismiss plaintiff's motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

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. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004) ("As a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with examination of our jurisdiction."). 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 Ir., Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982). A district court may dismiss a complaint sua sponte prior to service on the defendants, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), when it is evident that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Masoud v. Suliman, 816 F. Supp. 2d 77, 79 (D.D.C. 2011); see also Evans v. Suter, No. 09-5242, 2010 WL 1632902 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 2, 2010), citing Hurt v. U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir., 264 Fed. App'x. 1, 1 (D.C. Cir. 2008); Scholastic Entertainment, Inc. v. Fox Entertainment Group, Inc., 336 F.3d 982, 985 (9th Cir. 2003); Zernial v. United States, 714 F.2d 431, 433-34 (5th Cir. 1983).

Rule 60(b) allows a party in a civil case to file a "motion" seeking relief from a final judgment due to fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party, Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(3), or on the basis that the judgment is "void," Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(4). However, neither Rule 60(b)(3) nor (b)(4) "permits a criminal defendant to file an 'independent' civil action in a different jurisdiction collaterally attacking a criminal judgment." Hinojosa v. U.S. Attorney General, 759 F. Supp. 2d 53, 54 (D.D.C. 2011). Rather, "it is well-established that judicial review of a federal conviction and sentence is available only via a motion filed in the sentencing court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 or a petition for a writ of habeas corpus against the warden in the jurisdiction where the defendant is being held if the remedy under [section] 2255 is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of a person's detention." Id. at 54-55; see also Romero v. U.S. Attorney General, No. 1:08-cv-00417, 2008 WL 723335, at *1 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2008).*fn3

Even if the Court were to treat this motion as a habeas claim, plaintiff has not alleged any basis for finding a remedy under section 2255 inadequate or ineffective or that plaintiff can assert such a claim on behalf of third parties. As such, this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the motion as an "independent action" under Rule 60(b)(3) or (b)(4). See Romero, 2008 WL 723335, at *1, citing Woodford v. Garceau, 538 U.S. 202, 208 (2003) ("The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply in the context of habeas suits to the extent that they are not inconsistent with the Habeas Corpus Rules."); Fed. R. Civ. P. 81(a)(4) (civil rules of procedure applicable "to the extent that the practice in [habeas] proceedings is not specified in a federal statute . . . or the Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases").*fn4

Accordingly, the Court will dismiss this case sua sponte pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. A separate order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will issue.

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