United States District Court, D. Columbia.
RUSSELL E. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL P. HUERTA, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVAIATION ADMINISTRATION, Defendant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
RUSSELL E. ROBINSON, Plaintiff, Pro se, Miami Gardens, FL.
MICHAEL HUERTA, U.S. DOT, Federal Aviation Administration
Administrator, Defendant: Carl Ezekiel Ross, LEAD ATTORNEY,
U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
Document No.: 10
CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
August 2005, pro se Plaintiff Russell Robinson
(" Mr. Robinson" ) was convicted by a jury of
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine,
conspiracy to import cocaine, and conspiracy to launder
money. The Federal Aviation Administration (" FAA"
) subsequently determined
that Mr. Robinson had served as an airman or been aboard an
aircraft to facilitate the offenses of conviction, and on
March 3, 2008, it issued an order revoking his commercial
pilot, mechanic, and ground instructor certificates pursuant
to 49 U.S.C. § § 44709 and 44710. An administrative
law judge (" ALJ" ) with the National
Transportation Safety Board (" NTSB" ) affirmed the
revocations in September 2008, and Mr. Robinson filed the
instant action in March 2014, arguing that the FAA and
NTSB's lifetime revocation of his certificates was
unlawful. Now before the Court is the FAA's motion to
dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction and failure to state a claim for relief. Upon
consideration of the parties' submissions, the Court will
grant the FAA's motion to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
April 11, 2003, Mr. Robinson was indicted for participating
in a multi-defendant drug and money laundering conspiracy in
the U.S. Virgin Islands. See Indictment, Def.'s
Ex. A at 39-58, ECF No. 10-1. A superseding indictment
returned on September 30, 2004, charged that Mr. Robinson,
" a private pilot, would transport . . . co-conspirators
to various destinations in the Caribbean for the purpose of
delivering the illegal proceeds of the drug sales so that it
could be laundered and/or picking up drugs or arranging drug
shipments into the Virgin Islands." Superseding
Indictment, Def.'s Ex. A at 3, ECF No. 10-1. After a jury
trial, Mr. Robinson was convicted of conspiring to possess
with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841, conspiring to import cocaine in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 963, and money laundering conspiracy in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h). Compl. at 4, ECF No.
1; Judgment, Def.'s Ex. A at 34, ECF No. 10-1.
consequence of Mr. Robinson's convictions, on March 3,
2008, the FAA issued an Order of Revocation, which revoked
Mr. Robinson's Commercial Pilot Certificate, Mechanic
Certificate, and Ground Instructor Certificate. FAA Order,
Pl.'s Ex. 2 at 14-15, ECF No. 1. The order explained that
pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 44710, the circumstances of Mr.
Robinson's convictions--that he served as an airman or
was aboard a U.S. civil aircraft to facilitate the offenses
of conviction--" mandate the revocation of any and all
airman certificates and ground instructor certificates held
by you . . . ." Id. at 15. The order further
stated that " the Administrator has determined that
safety in air commerce or air transportation and the public
interest require the revocation . . ." Id. at
Robinson appealed the FAA's March 2008 order to the
NTSB's Office of Administrative Law Judges, and an ALJ
affirmed the revocation on September 11, 2008. See
Compl. at 4; ALJ Order, Def.'s Ex. C, ECF No. 10-3. Mr.
Robinson then appealed the ALJ's September 2008
affirmance to the NTSB, but on October 31, 2008, the NTSB
dismissed the appeal, finding that Mr. Robinson had withdrawn
it. NTSB Order of Dismissal, Oct. 31, 2008, Def.'s Ex. D,
ECF No. 10-4. Mr. Robinson petitioned for reconsideration of
the September 2008 order on November 14, 2012, and the
petition was denied as an untimely appeal on May 2, 2013.
NTSB Order, May 2, 2013, Def.'s Ex. B at 1-2, ECF No.
10-2; see also Compl. at 4.
March 20, 2014, Mr. Robinson filed the instant action seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief " that requires FAA to
remedy constitutional and statutory violations as a result of
its application of 49 U.S.C. § 44710 to Plaintiff . . .
." Compl. at 2. In his complaint, Mr. Robinson alleges
that the FAA's March 2008 order of revocation "
mischaracterized the facts alleged at trial," and that
the lifetime revocation of his certificates violated his
rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Id. at 4-5, 9.
More specifically, Mr. Robinson claims that the actions of
the FAA and NTSB have violated his " Constitutionally
protected interests in travelling (privately in General
Aviation Aircraft) by air," his " Constitutional
Right to Contract so as to earn a sufficient and adequate
lawful living," his " public right of transit
through navigable airspace" pursuant to 49 U.S.C. §
40103(a)(2), and his Eighth Amendment right to be free from
cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 5-10. He
further asserts that " the provisions of 49 U.S.C.
§ 44710 et seq. are Unconstitutional on its face, as it
pertains to its lifetime revocation of Robinson's
certificates," and he asks that the Court issue a
declaratory judgment finding that the application of §
44710 to Mr. Robinson's certificates is cruel and unusual
in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and that the Court
order the FAA and NTSB " to withdraw their revocation
order(s)" and permit him to exercise his right to travel
by air and to perform repair work. Id. at 9-10. Mr.
Robinson also asks that the Court take judicial notice of all
trial and sentencing transcripts, " which will clearly
demonstrate that there is no evidence, none whatsoever, that
Robinson transported any Drugs, or acted as a pilot in
command or was aboard an aircraft in any capacity that
transported drugs." Compl. at 9.
now moves to dismiss Mr. Robinson's complaint in its
entirety, arguing that this Court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction over Mr. Robinson's claims and that his
constitutional claims fail as a matter of law. Def.'s
Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 10.
Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter
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, 114 S.Ct. 1673,
128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994); see also Gen. Motors
Corp. v. EPA, 363 F.3d 442, 448, 361 U.S. App.D.C. 6
(D.C. Cir. 2004) (" As a court of limited jurisdiction,
we begin, and end, with an examination of our
On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the
burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction through
adequate factual allegations. See Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct.
2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992).
subject matter jurisdiction focuses on the Court's power
to hear a claim, the Court must give the plaintiff's
factual allegations " closer scrutiny" when
deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion than it would when resolving
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.
See Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v.
Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). Thus,
courts are not limited to considering the allegations
contained in the complaint, and can consult extra-pleading
materials when " determining the threshold
jurisdictional issue." See Wilderness
Soc'y v. Griles, 824 F.2d 4, 16 n.10, 262 U.S.
App.D.C. 277 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
contain " a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in
order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the
grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2);
accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93,
127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam). "
A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's
likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether
a plaintiff properly has stated a claim." Johnson v.
Sullivan, 748 F.Supp.2d 1, 8 (D.D.C. 2010). " When
ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in
the complaint." Atherton v. D.C. Office of the
Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681, 386 U.S. App.D.C. 144 (D.C.
Cir. 2009) (quoting Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94).
" [t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell
A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955,
167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). This means that a plaintiff's
factual allegations " must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that
all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if
doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56
(citations omitted). " Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements," are therefore insufficient to withstand a
motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A court
need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true,
see id., nor must a court presume the veracity of
the legal conclusions that are couched as factual
allegations. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
pro se complaint is held to " less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."
Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (quoting Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251
(1976)). But even pro se litigants " must plead
factual matter that permits the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct." Jones v.
Horne, 634 F.3d 588, 596, 394 U.S. App.D.C. 261 (D.C.
Cir. 2011) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Moreover, " [a] pro se complaint, like any other, must
present a claim upon which relief can be granted by the
court." Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305,
1308, 211 U.S. App.D.C. 75 (D.C. Cir. 1981).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
first argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over Mr.
Robinson's claims challenging the revocation of his
certifications under 49 U.S.C. § 44710. Def.'s Mem.
Supp. Mot. to Dismiss at 13-16, ECF No. 10. It maintains that
jurisdiction over such matters lies exclusively in the U.S.
Courts of Appeals, and that in any case, the 60-day window
for obtaining judicial review of the revocations has
long-since expired. Id. 49 U.S.C. § 44710(d)(3)
provides that " [a]n individual substantially affected
by an order of the Board under this subsection . . . may
obtain judicial review of the order under section 46110 of
this title." Section 46110, in turn, provides that:
[A] person disclosing a substantial interest in an order
issued by the Secretary of Transportation . . . [or] the
Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration . . .
may apply for review of the order by filing a petition for
review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia Circuit or in the court of appeals of the United
States for the circuit in which the person resides or has its
principal place of business. The petition must be filed not
later than 60 days after the order is issued. The court may
allow the petition to be filed after the 60th day only if
there are reasonable grounds for not filing by the 60th day.
49 U.S.C. § 46110(a). The FAA therefore concludes that
Mr. Robinson's claims challenging the revocations cannot
be considered by this Court, and that " jurisdiction
over this matter properly lies, if at all, with the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia."
Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 13.
Robinson disputes the FAA's argument, asserting first
that the " instant matter can in fact be considered Nunc
Pro Tunc," because his 2008 appeal to the NTSB was
" mischaracterized and dismissed unilaterally."
Pl.'s Opp'n at 1-2, ECF No. 11. He also argues that
" this Court has subject matter jurisdiction to
interpret the application of 49 U.S.C. section 44710, and its
Constitutionality on a whole." Id. at 2-3. In
support of his assertion of subject-matter jurisdiction, Mr.
Robinson points to Reno v. Catholic Social Services,
Inc., 509 U.S. 43, 55-56, 113 S.Ct. 2485, 125 L.Ed.2d 38
(1993), which held that a similar statutory provision that
prevents district courts from hearing an individual's
challenge to an agency's decision does not prevent
district courts from ...