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Wise v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 4, 2015

EDDIE WISE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs filed the above-captioned action on August 14, 2015, alleging various state and federal claims, arising out of the circumstances surrounding the denial of a farm operating loan. Plaintiffs, although appearing pro se, are experience litigators, as the present suit follows a long line of actions brought by Plaintiffs in multiple district courts concerning the allegations at issue. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs name as Defendants, the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), and Tom Vilsack in his official capacity as Secretary for the USDA (collectively, the “Federal Defendants”), as well as two USDA employees, Paula Nichols and Charles M. Huskey, in their official and individual capacities. The two USDA employees have not been served, and no counsel has made an appearance on their behalf.

Presently before the Court are two motions: Federal Defendants’ [13] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint (“Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss”) and Plaintiffs’ [18] “Motion to Supplement Brief in Support of Judicial Review / Motion to Renew a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction and Set Forth a Hearing or in the Alternative a Notice to File.” Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS Federal Defendants’ [13] Motion to Dismiss. The Court DENIES the relief requested by Plaintiffs in their [18] “Motion to Supplement Brief in Support of Judicial Review / Motion to Renew a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction and Set Forth a Hearing or in the Alternative a Notice to File.”

The Court concludes that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and therefore, the Court shall dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims against Federal Defendants. Plaintiffs’ claims against the two remaining Defendants, Paula Nichols and Charles M. Huskey, shall be dismissed under the doctrine of res judicata. The Court shall enter JUDGMENT in favor of Defendants. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

As a preliminary matter, the Court accepts as true, for the purposes of the motions presently before the Court, the factual allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, notwithstanding the fact that Plaintiffs have filed an Amended Complaint. See ECF No. [10]. Normally, “[o]nce an amended pleading is interposed, the original pleading no longer performs any function in the case.” 6 Charles Allen Wright & Arthur R. Miller, et al., § 1476 (2d ed. 1990). Here, however, Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint consists of an abbreviated request for judicial review of a USDA decision denying Plaintiffs’ request for a hearing. See ECF No. [10]. Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint contains no background facts and does not state whether it incorporates the allegations made in Plaintiffs’ Complaint. See Pl.’s Amend. Compl., ECF No. [10]. Mindful of the Court’s “obligation to construe pro se filings liberally, ” Toolasprashad v. Bur. of Prisons, 286 F.3d 576, 583 (D.C. Cir. 2002), the Court shall consider the allegations in Plaintiffs’ Complaint as incorporated into Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint. See Sieverding v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 693 F.Supp.2d 93, 101 (D.D.C. 2010). The Court does “not accept as true, however, the plaintiff's legal conclusions or inferences that are unsupported by the facts alleged.” Ralls Corp. v. Comm. on Foreign Inv. in U.S., 758 F.3d 296, 315 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

A. The USDA’s Denial of Plaintiffs’ Farm Loan in 2012

As stated in the Complaint, Plaintiffs, Eddie and Dorothy Wise, are the operators of a livestock farm in Nash County, North Carolina. Compl. ¶ 2. Plaintiffs have previously received farm operating loans under the USDA-FSA Farm Loan Program. Id. ¶¶ 7-9. In September 1997, the Farm Service Agency Loan Manager assigned to Plaintiffs was relocated, and Plaintiffs were assigned a new Loan Manager. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. In January 2011, this Loan Manager retired, and Plaintiffs were subsequently assigned their current Loan Manager. Id. 10-13. Plaintiffs allege that despite a request for assistance, their new Loan Manager did not provide any help in developing Plaintiffs’ 2012 farm operating plan. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiffs instead secured the assistance of their former, now retired Loan Manager, and submitted the required documents in January 2012. Id.

On March 27, 2012, Plaintiffs’ Loan Manager prepared a farm operating plan based on the information provided by Plaintiffs that “projected negative net operating inflows and negative net cash available from the projected livestock and poultry sales” from their farm. Id. ¶ 16. Based on this projection, Plaintiffs’ Loan Manager informed them that they did not qualify for any FSA Primary Loan Servicing programs. Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiffs subsequently submitted a Farm Business Plan Worksheet that projected their cash flow for 2012 using their own historical sales data rather than a national average. Id. ¶¶ 18-19. Plaintiffs’ Loan Manager prepared a second farm operating plan in May 2012, this time showing “positive net operating inflows and positive net cash available for operations.” Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiffs were instructed to meet with their Loan Manager to finalize approval of this plan, but at this meeting, the Loan Manager notified Plaintiffs that she had decided not to use this second plan. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Plaintiffs were then informed that “because they did not qualify for any FSA Primary Loan Servicing program, they would be required to make monthly debt payments of $3, 100.00 to the USDA to avoid foreclosure on the deed of trust held by the USDA-FSA for the plaintiffs’ farm and home in Nash County, North Carolina.” Id. ¶ 22.

In June 2012, a third farm operating plan was prepared by the Loan Manager, further reducing the anticipated sales of livestock and repeating the projection of negative cash flow. Id. ¶ 23. Because Plaintiffs’ farm does not generate sufficient income to pay $3, 100.00 per month, they defaulted on their obligations due under the promissory note. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiffs allege that qualification for the USDA-FSA Primary Loan Servicing Program would have allowed them to make payments that are “substantially less” than the Plaintiffs’ annual non-farm income, thereby enabling Plaintiffs to meet their payment obligations under the promissory note to the USDA-FSA. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. Plaintiffs also allege that their Loan Manager approved farm operating plans of “similarly situated white Caucasian livestock farmers, ” and that the “rejection of [their] application to participate in a USDA-FSA Primary Loan Servicing Program [was] based upon [their] race.” Id. ¶¶ 27-31. Although Plaintiffs met multiple times with the State Director of the USDA-FSA to seek reversal of the USDA-FSA’s decision, these meetings were unsuccessful. Id. ¶ 33.

B. Plaintiffs’ 2013 Lawsuit Challenging the USDA’s Denial of Plaintiffs’ Farm Loan

On November 5, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an action in the Eastern District of North Carolina, challenging the above-described denial of Plaintiffs’ farm loan under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). See Wise v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., No. 4:13-CV-234-BO, 2014 WL 5460606 (E.D. N.C. Oct. 27, 2014) aff'd, 592 F.App'x 203 (4th Cir. 2015). On October 27, 2014, the district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice and denied Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a second amended complaint as futile. Id. at *4. With respect to Plaintiffs’ ECOA claim, the court held that Plaintiffs “fail[ed] to adequately allege direct statements of discrimination, disparate impact, or disparate treatment.” Id. The court also held that there were no grounds to grant Plaintiffs’ requested relief under the APA. Id. In dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims, the court observed that “Plaintiffs’ litigation theme before this Court has been to delay by any means possible.” Id. at *4.

On February 3, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision for the reasons stated by the district court. Wise v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 592 F.App'x 203 (4th Cir. 2015).

C. The North Carolina Foreclosure Proceeding

On November 19, 2014, the United States brought a foreclosure action against Plaintiffs in the Eastern District of North Carolina. See United States v. Wise, No. 5:14-CV-844-FL (E.D. N.C. ...


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