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Rancourt v. Holder

United States District Court, District Circuit

September 29, 2013

Michael A. Rancourt, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter, brought pro se by two registered sex offenders, is before the Court on its initial review of their "Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief under Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Both plaintiffs are former Massachusetts state prisoners now residing in different states. See Compl. Caption. As they admittedly have done before, plaintiffs "seek a declaration that the Jacob Wetterling Act [JWA] and related United States Attorney General guidelines are unconstitutional as applied [and] an order enjoining enforcement of the same." Doe v. U.S. Atty. Gen., 657 F.Supp.2d 315, 316-17 (D. Mass. 2009); see Compl. \ 8 (describing "previously dismissed litigation"). In the earlier case, the District of Massachusetts granted Attorney General Holder's motion to dismiss on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the federal statute. See Doe, 657 F.Supp.2d at 317-19.

Under the principle of res judicata, a final judgment on the merits in one action "bars any further claim based on the same 'nucleus of facts' . . .." Page v. United States, 729 F.2d 818, 820 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (quoting Expert Elec, Inc. v. Levine, 554 F.2d 1227, 1234 (D.C. Cir. 1977)). Res judicata bars the relitigation "of issues that were or could have been raised in [the prior] action." Drake v. FAA, 291 F.3d 59, 66 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (emphasis in original) (citing Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980)); see I.A.M. Nat'I Pension Fund v. Indus. Gear Mfg. Co., 723 F.2d 944, 949 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (noting that res judicata "forecloses all that which might have been litigated previously"); accord Crowder v. Bierman, Geesing, and Ward LLC, 713 F.Supp.2d 6, 10 (D.D.C. 2010). Although res judicata is an affirmative defense that typically must be pled, courts "may raise the res judicata preclusion defense sua sponte" Rosendahl v. Nixon, 360 Fed.Appx. 167, 168 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (citing Arizona v. California, 530 U.S. 392, 412-13 (2000); Brown v. D.C, 514 F.3d 1279, 1285-86 (D.C. Cir. 2008)), and a "district court may apply res judicata upon taking judicial notice of [a] [party's] previous case." Tinsley v. Equifax Credit Info. Serv's, /«c., No. 99-7031, 1999 WL 506720 (D.C. Cir. June 2, 1999) (per curiam) (citing Gullo v. Veterans Cooperative Housing Ass'n, 269 F.2d 517 (D.C. Cir. 1959) (per curiam)).

Since plaintiffs' standing to challenge the JWA was adjudicated on the merits, and "the defect of standing is a defect in subject matter jurisdiction, " Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987), this action is barred by res judicata. See GAF Corp. v. U.S., 818 F.2d 901, 912 (D.C. Cir. 1987) ("The judgment ordering dismissal. . . [has] preclusive effect as to matters actually adjudicated; it will, for example, preclude relitigation of the precise issue of jurisdiction that led to the initial dismissal."); Zellars v. U.S., 578 F.Supp.2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2008) ("[T]his Court's earlier dismissal of the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is a final judgment on the merits for res judicata purposes.") (footnote omitted). A separate Order of dismissal accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.


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