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Sluss v. Renaud

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 25, 2016

MATTHEW DAVID SLUSS, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL RENAUD[1] et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TANYA S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Matthew David Sluss, proceeding pro se, filed this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against the United States Department of Homeland Security, its component Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and USCIS's Associate Director, who at the relevant time period was Donald Monica but is currently Daniel Renaud. Plaintiff seeks “to remedy the Defendant's pattern and practice Ultra Vires Conduct in excess of statutory authority, ” which he claims has deprived him of “equal protection, procedural, and substantive due process rights.”[2] (Compl. ¶ 2.)

         Contending that this action is foreclosed by Plaintiff's prior case, Sluss v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., 899 F.Supp.2d 37 (D.D.C. 2012) (Sluss I), Defendants move to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds of res judicata. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Compl, ECF No. 11.) In the alternative, Defendants assert that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because Plaintiff could have presented his ultra vires and constitutional claims in the previously adjudicated case, the Court agrees that res judicata applies. Consequently, Defendants' motion will be granted for the reasons explained more fully below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The factual allegations set out in paragraphs 23-25 of the Complaint are substantially the same as those recited in Sluss I, in which the court wrote:

On September 7, 2010, plaintiff “officially renounced his citizenship by taking an oath while in Toronto, Ontario, Canada ... at a Services Canada Government Center . . . and receiv[ing] his Canadian SIN (social insurance number).” On September 15, 2010, before he could relocate to Toronto, plaintiff “was subjected to a search and arrest warrents [sic]. [He] has been since incarcerated[ ]” in the United States. On July 8, 2011, plaintiff “sent an affidavit [and] separate request for expatriation” to the USCIS, stating that he is “a dual citizen of the United States and Canada[, ]” who is renouncing his U.S. citizenship “[p]ursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(6) . . . .” Thereafter, plaintiff received an unsigned letter dated July 25, 2011, from the State Department advising him that “one can only renounce one's U.S. citizenship pursuant to Section 359(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [“INA”] before a U.S. diplomatic or consular office at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad[, ]” and that questions about renouncing “one's U.S. citizenship pursuant to Section 349(a)(6) . . . must be directed to USCIS.” On August 3, 2011, plaintiff “responded” to the State Department's letter and “again” sought to renounce his citizenship under § 1481(a)(6) in a letter to USCIS. When he received no response from either agency, plaintiff wrote both agencies on October 16, 2011, and again on February 13, 2012, “[w]hile preparing the case-in-chief . . . .” Plaintiff filed this civil action on March 19, 2012, from a correctional facility in Baltimore, Maryland. By letter of July 12, 2012, USCIS advised plaintiff that it could not proceed on his request “at this time” because a person renouncing his U.S. citizenship “while present in the United States [must] appear for an interview in person at a designated USCIS office.” USCIS informed plaintiff that it “will not interview potential renunciants by phone or video link, and will not travel to prisons or jails to conduct renunciation interviews, ” but that he was free to resubmit his renunciation request and evidence showing that he has “satisfied all the legal requirements for renunciation” after his release from prison.

Sluss, 899 F.Supp.2d at 39 (internal record citations and footnote omitted) (alterations in original). In this case, Plaintiff alleges that he has “again attempted to expatriate on 1/13/15, 4/15/15, and on 5/11/15” but “has received no responses from the 2015 letters.” (Compl. ¶¶ 26-27.) Plaintiff stresses, however, that “[t]his is not an action for mandamus, or review of any administrative order or decision to affirm, amend, modify, or set aside any part of any order or decision. Instead, this action [] constitute[s] a broad challenge to the unconstitutional, unlawful, and Ultra Vires practices and procedures employed by the Defendants, as applied, to Plaintiff[.]” (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Plaintiff filed this action on September 9, 2015, labeling his claims as follows: Count I, Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; Count II, Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; Count III, Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551; Count IV Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701; Count V, Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, 28 U.S.C. § 2201 & Fed.R.Civ.P. 65.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to move for dismissal on the grounds that the plaintiff has failed “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “To 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 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         “In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider not only the facts alleged in the complaint, but also documents attached to or incorporated by reference in the complaint and documents attached to a motion to dismiss for which no party contests authenticity.” Demissie v. Starbucks Corporate Office & Headquarters, 19 F.Supp.3d 321, 324 (D.D.C. 2014). Therefore, “‘where a document is referred to in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's claim, such a document attached to the motion papers may be considered without converting the motion to one for summary judgment' . . . ‘Otherwise, a plaintiff with a legally deficient claim could survive a motion to dismiss simply by failing to attach a dispositive document on which it relied'. . . Moreover, a document need not be mentioned by name to be considered ‘referred to' or ‘incorporated by reference' into the complaint.” Strumsky v. Washington Post Co., 842 F.Supp.2d 215, 217-18 (D.D.C. 2012) (citations omitted); see also Long v. Safeway, Inc., 842 F.Supp.2d 141, 144-45 (D.D.C. 2012), aff'd, 483 Fed.Appx. 576 (D.C. Cir. 2012). In addition, the Court may take judicial notice of public court records, particularly when assessing a res judicata argument because “all relevant facts are shown by the court's own records, of which the court takes notice.” Redmon v. United States Capitol Police, 80 F.Supp.3d 79, 85, n.7 (D.D.C. 2015) (quoting Hemphill v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 530 F.Supp.2d 108, 111 (D.D.C. 2008)). Given that the Court is relying on its own public records to resolve the motion, it denies Plaintiff's request to treat the motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (See Pl.'s Opp'n at 1, ECF No. 17.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         1. Dismissed Claims

         As an initial matter, the Court hereby dismisses all but two counts (one and five) of the Complaint. Count II is dismissed because the Fourteenth Amendment “applies only to the states, ” Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 499 (1954), as opposed to the federal defendants sued here. Plaintiff has withdrawn Count III, which arises under the APA's rulemaking requirements. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 18.) And Plaintiff's clarification in the Complaint that he is not seeking review of “any administrative order or decision” or “to affirm, amend, modify, or set aside any part of any order or decision” negates Count IV, which arises under the APA's judicial review provisions set out at 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-06. See Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 188-89 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (noting that “[t]he problem with relying on the APA . . . is that ‘§ 704 limits causes of action under the APA' to ‘final agency action.' Thus, although the absence of final agency action would not cost federal courts their jurisdiction, . . . it would cost Trudeau ...


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