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Miller v. Smith

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 10, 2013

MSHAIRI JONATHAN MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
D. SMITH, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

AMY BERMAN JACKSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Mshairi Jonathan Miller, proceeding pro se, has brought this action against both the United States Department of Treasury Financial Management Service ("FMS") and an individual identified as D. Smith, in her official capacity as Accounts Manager for the Maryland Department of Budget and Management Central Collection Unit. Plaintiff challenges the offset of federal payments owed to him for his work as an independent contractor for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The complaint alleges that defendants have wrongfully offset the entire value of his payments in order to discharge a non-tax debt that plaintiff owes to the State of Maryland.

Currently pending before the Court are motions to dismiss or for summary judgment by both FMS, [Dkt. # 6], and Smith [Dkt. # 25]; plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint, [Dkt. # 35]; a renewal of FMS's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment as to the proposed amended complaint, [Dkt. # 43]; and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, [Dkt. # 47]. Because the Court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims against both defendants for monetary relief and over plaintiff's claims against Smith that arise under state law, and because plaintiff's remaining claims against both defendants are legally deficient, the Court will dismiss all of plaintiff's claims except for his claims for injunctive relief against FMS, and it will grant summary judgment for FMS on the remaining claims. Although the Court is sympathetic to plaintiff's concerns, and it has made several efforts to bring the parties together to achieve a mediated resolution, those efforts have failed, and the Court must proceed to the merits of his complaint. Holding plaintiff's complaint to less stringent standards than it accords formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, the Court finds that plaintiff has failed to advance a viable legal theory under which a federal court in this district could grant him relief.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

The following factual allegations appear in both plaintiff's complaint, [Dkt. # 3-1], and his proposed amended complaint, [Dkt. # 35-2], unless otherwise noted.

Plaintiff is an independent contractor who has been providing services as a legal investigator to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia since 2005. Compl. ¶ 1; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ 1. To receive payment for his work, plaintiff allegedly submits a voucher for each case for which he performs work to the Superior Court's finance office. Compl. ¶ 2; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ 2. Plaintiff's payment is deposited directly into his checking account. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff's central allegation in this case is that FMS and the Maryland Department of Budget and Management Central Collection Unit have been intercepting the entire value of his payments in order to offset non-tax debt that he owes to the State of Maryland. Compl. ¶ 4; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ 4. The complaints allege that this conduct began two months prior to the filing date of the original complaint in this action. Compl. ¶ 4; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ 4. Plaintiff acknowledges that he has an outstanding debt, but he challenges defendants' authority to collect the entire amount of his payments. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5. According to the complaint, defendants' actions undermine plaintiff's ability to pay for his rent, mortgage, insurance, utilities, and food. Compl. ¶ 7; Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ 7.

II. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed his original complaint in Superior Court for the District of Columbia on June 14, 2012. [Dkt. # 3-1] at 78-80. Although plaintiff has not filed a motion for temporary restraining order in this case, the complaint was accompanied by a temporary restraining order affidavit of facts. Id. at 81-83. Plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction on July 11, 2012. [Dkt. # 3-1] at 24-27. On August 2, 2012, the Superior Court judge granted defendant D. Smith's motion to quash proof of service and ordered plaintiff to file proper proof of service on Smith on or before October 12, 2012. [Dkt. # 3-1] at 9-11.

On July 27, 2012, defendant FMS removed the action to this Court, see [Dkt. # 1], and on August 24, 2012, FMS filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment and an opposition to plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. [Dkt. # 6]. That motion is now fully briefed and pending before the Court. By Minute Order of September 13, 2012, the Court consolidated plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction with the merits, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a)(2).

The following months were occupied by plaintiff's attempts to perfect service on defendant Smith and the parties' attempts to resolve the dispute on their own. By Order of August 17, 2012, the Court required plaintiff to file proper proof of service on defendant D. Smith on or before October 12, 2012. [Dkt. # 4]. Plaintiff filed a return of service for Smith on September 21, 2012, [Dkt. # 10], and on October 10, 2012, Smith filed a motion to quash service of process, [Dkt. # 14]. In response, the Court issued an Order on October 10, 2012, requiring plaintiff to cause process to be served on Smith in her official capacity in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(j)(2) and to file proof of service with the Court on or before October 31, 2012. [Dkt. # 16]. On October 26, 2012, plaintiff filed proof of service with the Court. [Dkt. # 18]. However, noting that the complaint was not clear as to whether Smith was named as a defendant in her individual capacity or her official capacity, the Court, by Minute Order of November 5, 2012, [1] ordered plaintiff to file a notice with the Court on or before November 13, 2012, indicating the capacity in which Smith was sued. In response, plaintiff filed a notice on November 7, 2012, [Dkt. # 19], indicating that Smith is named in her official capacity. Accordingly, the Court issued an Order on November 8, 2012, requiring plaintiff to file proof of service on Smith in her official capacity by no later than December 10, 2012. Plaintiff filed its return of service on November 12, 2012, and Smith filed a motion to quash the return of service on November 26, 2012. [Dkt. # 24]. Finally, by Minute Order of December 10, 2012, the Court ordered defendant Smith to file a memorandum explaining why the proof of service filed by plaintiff on October 26, 2012 was not sufficient to establish that Smith was properly served in her official capacity. In response to that Minute Order, Smith filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, [Dkt. # 25], and withdrew her motion to quash, see Notice of Withdrawal [Dkt. # 27]. Smith's dispositive motion is now fully briefed and pending before the Court.

With the consent of the parties, the Court referred this action to mediation on February 11, 2013. [Dkt. # 31]. On April 11, 2013, the parties notified the Court that mediation was not successful. [Dkt. # 34]. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, [Dkt. # 35], which both defendants have opposed [Dkt. # 42, 44]. FMS has also filed a renewed motion to dismiss or for summary judgment as to the proposed amended complaint. [Dkt. # 43]. And on June 17, 2013, plaintiff filed his own motion for summary judgment. [Dkt. # 47].

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Motion to Dismiss

In evaluating a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), the Court must "treat the complaint's factual allegations as true... and must grant plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000), quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979) (citations omitted); see also Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Nevertheless, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported ...


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