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Guerrero-Smith v. Solis

United States District Court, District Circuit

January 23, 2014

HILDA L. SOLIS, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor, Defendant.




Before the Court is Defendant Secretary of Labor’s Motion to Dismiss [11]. Upon consideration of the parties’ arguments, the relevant case law, and the entire record, the Court grants in part and finds moot in part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.


Plaintiff Lenora Guerrero-Smith originally filed her petition for a writ of mandamus on February 9, 2012. Plaintiff sought to compel Defendant “to perform mandatory duties owed to Plaintiff arising under the Federal Employees Compensation Act, ” (“FECA”), 5 U.S.C. § 8101, et seq. Plaintiff sought to compel Defendant to act on two “open and accepted” Office of Workers’ Compensation Program (“OWCP”) claims. Further, Plaintiff sought an “accounting of the OWCP’s benefit payments to Plaintiff, such that Plaintiff may know the data that has been used to calculate her payments to determine correctness, ” and injunctive relief to compel Defendant to “[p]rocess any future OWCP payment paperwork in a timely fashion.”

On August 12, 2013, the parties filed a joint status report. In said report, Plaintiff indicated that Defendant had awarded Plaintiff payment under FECA as related to her workers’ compensation claims. As such, the only unresolved issues before the Court are Plaintiff’s claim for injunctive relief as well as Plaintiff’s claim to attorney’s fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A).

III. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss [11]

A. Plaintiff’s Claims Regarding Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Moot

As noted above and as acknowledged by Plaintiff in the joint status report, all claims by Plaintiff as to unpaid workers’ compensation benefits have been resolved in her favor. As such, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant with respect to these benefits are moot, and Defendant’s motion to dismiss with respect to these claims is moot.

B. The Court has Jurisdiction to Consider Plaintiff’s Remaining Claims

Defendant argues in her motion to dismiss that this Court lacks jurisdiction over all of Plaintiff’s claims because “Congress has foreclosed judicial review” “for matters arising within the scope of FECA.” Def.’s Mot. at 7. 5 U.S.C. § 8128(b) establishes that “[t]he action of the Secretary . . . in allowing or denying a payment under this subchapter is . . . not subject to review by another official of the United States or by a court by mandamus or otherwise.” However, this does not preclude all judicial review of issues “arising within the scope of FECA.” Courts have exercised jurisdiction over claims where “[t]he conduct of the Secretary that [the plaintiff] challenges . . . is not the ‘allowing or denying [of] a payment, ’ but rather the manner in which his claim was decided.” Rodrigues v. Donovan, 769 F.3d 1344, 1347-48 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Gilmore v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, 1993 WL 89050, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 10, 1993) (finding that, while review of Secretary’s substantive decision is foreclosed by FECA, a plaintiff’s constitutional claims can be heard by the district court). Here, Plaintiff stated in her petition for a writ of mandamus that she was “not challenging the merits of any [workers’ compensation] decision, but rather the failure . . . to provide Plaintiff with procedural due process . . . .” Pl.’s Pet. at 4.

Accordingly, the Court is satisfied that is has jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff’s claims.

C. Injunctive Relief

Plaintiff argues that, while her workers’ compensation claims against Defendant have been resolved, this case is not moot because there is a reasonable likelihood that the alleged wrong (in this case, delay in processing Plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claims) will reoccur. “Article III of the Constitution restricts the federal courts to deciding only ‘actual, ongoing controversies.’” Nat’l Black Police Ass’n v. D.C., 108 F.3d 346, 349 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (quoting Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 317 (1988)). “Even where litigation poses a live controversy when filed . . . [a] court [must] refrain from deciding it if events have so transpired that the decision will neither presently affect the parties’ rights nor have a more-than-speculative chance of affecting them in the future.” Nat’l Black Police Ass’n, 108 F.3d at 349 (quoting C ...

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