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Harris v. Sebelius

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 25, 2013

JOHNNY L. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
KATHLEEN G. SEBELIUS, Defendant

Filed March 26, 2013.

JOHNNY L. HARRIS, Plaintiff, Pro se, Washington, DC.

For KATHLEEN G. SEBELIUS, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Defendant: Matthew E. Maguire, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 151

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, Chief United States District Judge.

United States Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson denied without prejudice defendant's original motion to dismiss plaintiff's 228-page complaint and directed plaintiff, proceeding pro se, to file an amended complaint " no more than 20 pages long" that complies with the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Mem. Order (Feb. 6, 2012). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint [Dkt. # 21] and defendant has renewed her motion to dismiss pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) and Rules 8(a), 10(a), 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Def.'s Renewed Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 26]. Plaintiff has opposed defendant's motion. Court Ordered Reply (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ) [Dkt. # 30]. For the following reasons, the Court will grant defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. When a party files a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), " the plaintiff[ ] bear[s] the burden of proving bye a preponderance of the evidence that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction." Carney Hosp. Transitional Care Unit v. Leavitt, 549 F.Supp.2d 93, 95 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Ind., 298 U.S. 178, 189, 56 S.Ct. 780, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936)) (other citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (alterations in original). A court considering a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true. Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253, 365 U.S. App. D.C. 270 (D.C. Cir. 2005). This " tenet" does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). When assessing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), a court may consider any undisputed facts in the record, or " the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197, 297 U.S. App. D.C. 406 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

DISCUSSION

Although plaintiff improperly labels his causes of action as " Estoppel By Record" and " Equitable Estoppel," and mentions those doctrines throughout the amended complaint, the Court, as has defendant, discerns a claim arising out of the Social Security Administration's decision to suspend plaintiff's disability benefits. [1] On

Page 152

page two of the amended complaint, plaintiff provides what he purports is a case name and claim number assigned by the Social Security Administration, and he alleges that " defendant . . . brought an action against plaintiff . . . . through the . . . SSA [and other departments] . . . to terminate benefits for failure to no longer meet a criteria justifying benefits . . . ." Am. Compl. at 2 ¶ 24. In his opposition, plaintiff contends that defendant should be estopped from denying his " claim for continued uninterrupted SSI Benefits under the theory of due process . . . ." Pl.'s Opp'n at 5.

Plaintiff advances other incomprehensible arguments that have little or nothing to do with his social security benefits. " A complaint may be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds when it 'is patently insubstantial,' presenting no federal question suitable for decision." Tooley v. Napolitano, 586 F.3d 1006, 1009, 388 U.S. App. D.C. 327 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Best v. Kelly, 39 F.3d 328, 330, 309 U.S. App. D.C. 51 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). In addition, dismissal on jurisdictional grounds is warranted when the complaint " postulat[es] events and circumstances of a wholly fanciful kind." Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1307-08, 211 U.S. App. D.C. 75 (D.C. Cir. 1981). The Court agrees with defendant's assessment that most of plaintiff's " incoherent ramblings" set forth in the amended complaint merit dismissal of the case under Rule 12(b)(1) as frivolous. Def.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Renewed Mot. to Dismiss (" Def.'s Mem." ) at 4.

With regard to the benefits claim, the Court agrees that dismissal is warranted for the following two reasons. First, to the extent that plaintiff is raising a due process claim, Pl.'s Opp'n at 5, the record shows that plaintiff received the process due him insofar as he received notice that his benefits were in jeopardy and was given a meaningful opportunity to respond. See Decl. of Mandy Stokes ¶ ¶ 12-16 [Dkt. #26-1, ECF pp. 1-5]; id., Ex. 11-2, ECF pp. 77-80 (Notice of Disability Cessation (" Cess. Notice." )); see also Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 349, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976) (concluding that " an evidentiary hearing is not required prior to the termination of disability benefits and that the present administrative procedures [providing notice and the opportunity to present case] fully comport with due process" ). Furthermore, " the mere allegation of a due process violation [arising out of an ...


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