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Nix EL v. Williams

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 30, 2016

JEFFREY B. NIX EL, Plaintiff
TESFAYE WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.


COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge.

On March 4, 2015, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed suit against the District of Columbia Department of Health (“DOH”), Tesfaye Williams, and Willis R. Bradwell, Jr. (“collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that Defendants wrongfully failed to change his daughter’s surname from “Nix” to “Nix El.”

Presently before the Court is Defendants’ [9] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ [9] Motion to Dismiss. The Court shall dismiss this case in its entirety.


For the purposes of the motions before the Court, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint. 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). The Court recites the principal facts pertaining to the issues raised in the pending motions, reserving further presentation of the facts for the discussion of the individual issues below.

A. The Underlying Facts

Plaintiff’s daughter was born on October 20, 2014 at George Washington Hospital in Washington, D.C. Compl. ¶ 5, Ex. I. On October 21, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a Birth Certificate worksheet to the Hospital. Id. ¶ 5. On that worksheet, Plaintiff’s daughter’s surname was listed as “Nix El” while both of her parents’ surnames were listed as “Nix.” Id. Ex. I.

On October 22, 2014, Plaintiff submitted an “Affidavit to Support Designation of an Alternate Infant Surname” to the agent of hospital medical records, explaining the reason for adding the nobility title “El” to his daughter’s surname. Id. ¶ 20, Ex. I. In support of the use of a surname different than that of either parent, the Affidavit requires affiants to swear that the requested surname is the surname of a “past or current relative of one of the parents whose name appears on the birth certificate or has some other clearly stated familial connection.” Id. Ex. I. In the space reserved for the affiant’s response, Plaintiff wrote, “she is the member of the Washington de Dugdahmeadyah Mu’er M.S.T.A. family. It is a nobility title that should be added to her last name. Please refer to HR Resolution 75; 1933 House Page 5759.” Id. (sic).

On November 20, 2014, the Supervisor of DOH’s Vital Records division, Tesfaye Williams, contacted Plaintiff via email, stating that he had conferred with their Deputy General Counsel, and that under D.C. Code § 7-205, DOH could not grant Plaintiff’s request to add the nobility title “El” to Plaintiff’s daughter’s surname. See Id . Ex. C. Mr. Williams further informed Plaintiff that since the deadline for registering his daughter’s birth records was one month overdo, DOH’s Vital Records division would register his daughter’s birth record with Plaintiff’s surname “Nix” in an effort to comply with the required time frame regarding birth registration. Id. Mr. Williams also informed Plaintiff that he could obtain a judge-issued court order from D.C. Superior Court to change his daughter’s surname to “Nix El” and provided Plaintiff with the court’s contact information. Id.

Plaintiff responded to Mr. Williams’ email, indicating that he did not consent to DOH’s recommendations. See Compl. Ex. D. Willis R. Bradwell, Jr., the Vital Records Division’s Registrar, replied to Plaintiff’s response, indicating that Mr. Williams had accurately described DOH’s requirement to register the birth record information for Plaintiff’s daughter. See id. Ex D. Mr. Bradwell reiterated that Plaintiff’s recourse was to provide DOH with a court order from D.C. Superior Court indicating that his daughter’s surname should be changed from “Nix” to “Nix El.” See Id . Exs. E, F. Plaintiff did not seek a court order from D.C. Superior Court.

B. The Instant Action

On March 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant action against DOH, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Bradwell, alleging four counts against Defendants: (1) First Amendment Freedom of Religion violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 (“Count I”); (2) violations of his right to contract under Article 1 Section 10 of the U.C. Constitution and Fraud pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1028 (a) & (b)(A)((ii) (“Count II”); violations of Plaintiff’s rights under the Fifth and Ninth Amendments and U.S.C. §§ 1-208/1-308 pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242 (“Count III”); and, (4) violations under the First and Fourteenth Amendments for unconstitutional prior restraint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988 (“Count IV”). Id. ¶¶ 36-48. Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief against Defendants and punitive damages calculated at $1 million per day for each day his daughter did not have a birth certificate, equitable relief enjoining Defendants from depriving Plaintiff and his daughter of their constitutional right to exercise freedom of religion, and compensatory damages of $136 million plus costs. Id. ¶¶ A-E.

On May 26, 2015, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint. See Defs.’ Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. [9]. On June 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Opposition brief to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. See Pl.’s Opp’n, ECF No. [12]. Also on June 11, 2015, Plaintiff filed a one-page petition for Default Judgment, arguing that the Court should enter a default judgment against Defendants because the copy of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss served on Plaintiff was postmarked on May 27, 2015, instead of May 26, 2015-the applicable deadline under the Court’s Order issued on April 28, 2015 and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures. See ECF No. [8]; Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a)(1)(C).

The Court shall deny Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment. “[D]efault judgments are not favored by modern courts.” Peak v. D.C., 236 F.R.D. 13, 15 (D.D.C. 2006). Courts “strongly favor resolution of disputes on their merits, ” and it is “inherently unfair to use the court’s power to enter judgment as a penalty for filing delays.” Id. Furthermore, Defendants filed their motion to dismiss with the Court on the appropriate date, May 26, 2015. See Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. [9]. Plaintiff has not demonstrated any prejudice to the fact that Defendants mailed their motion to dismiss to Plaintiff on May 27, 2015 instead of May 26, 2015. In fact, Plaintiff filed his opposition to Defendants’ motion to dismiss one day before the deadline set by the Court. See ECF Nos. [8], [12]. In any event, Plaintiff is not entitled to a default judgment, as Defendants are not in default. Before Plaintiff can seek a ...

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