United States District Court, District of Columbia
JANEL N. SMITH, Plaintiff,
THE U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, et al ., Defendants.
E. BOASBERG United States District Judge.
se Plaintiff Janel Smith brings this action under the
Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b),
2671-80, against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
and the Merit Systems Protection Board, challenging the
manner in which those entities process discrimination claims.
Defendants now move to dismiss on a variety of grounds.
Because jurisdictional barriers prevent Smith from making any
progress here, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion.
Complaint, originally filed in the Superior Court for the
District of Columbia, is not easy to follow, but appears to
assert claims under the FTCA for “negligence,
deliberate acts, wrongful acts, and omissions of employees of
the United States Government.” ECF No. 1-1 (Complaint)
at 2. She seeks damages for “Exacerbated Physical and
Mental Injuries and/or Illnesses, Sleep Deprivation, Loss of
Enjoyment of Life, Damage to Reputation; Damage to Career
and/or Career Progression, Emotional Distress, Humiliation,
Interference of immediate relationships (family, friends,
etc.), negative outlook on Justice within the United States,
and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Id. at
Complaint alleges, inter alia, that Defendants
“created barriers to Justice by establishing a pattern
of practice during case assessment and processing of present
and former Federal Employees['] complaints” through
collusion, a lack of transparency, fear and intimidation, and
abuse of power. Id. at 5-6. According to Plaintiff,
Defendants created a “disparity of Law application,
assessment, and processing in comparability to similarly
situated Non-Federal employees.” Id. at 4.
They “maintain[ed] a pattern of practice focusing
solely on budget, revenue, and bonuses . . . maintaining the
status quo of continuing abuses within Federal
workplaces.” Id. at 5 (ellipses in original).
She complains of “biased handling of complaint[s],
” “misconduct, mismanagement, and reprisal during
complaint processing, ” “a flagrant disregard of
Laws, ” and so forth. Id. at 6. The Complaint
alleges no facts specific to Smith's own situation.
Defendants removed the matter to this Court, see ECF
No. 1 (Notice of Removal), they filed a Motion to Dismiss.
See ECF No. 5. In opposing the Motion, Plaintiff
provides slightly more information, particularly in her
exhibits. See Opp., Exhs. A & B. The Court will
consider the facts alleged in her Opposition in looking at
the Motion to Dismiss. See Brown v. Whole Foods Mkt.
Grp., Inc., 789 F.3d 146, 152 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
example, Smith alleges that Defendants “ignor[ed]
evidence destruction and obstruction of justice, in February
2012, January 2014, and November 2014, within a
Discrimination and a Whistleblower case brought forth in
September 2010, against the Department of Justice.”
Opp. at 2. She also refers to two exhibits, which consist of
emails between Plaintiff and EEOC officials in which Smith
complains about administrative law judges (Exh. A) and a
pleading she filed in the MSPB proceeding (Exh. B). None of
this makes clear what the thrust of her grievance is.
evaluating Defendants' Motion, the Court must
“treat the complaint's factual allegations as true
. . . and must grant plaintiff ‘the benefit of
all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air Lines,
Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting
Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C.
Cir. 1979)) (internal citation omitted); see also Jerome
Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C.
Cir. 2005). This standard governs the Court's
considerations of Defendants' Motion under both Rules
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416
U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (“[I]n passing on a motion to
dismiss, whether on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over
the subject matter or for failure to state a cause of action,
the allegations of the complaint should be construed
favorably to the pleader”); Walker v. Jones,
733 F.2d 923, 925-26 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (same). The Court need
not accept as true, however, “a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an inference
unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint.
Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193
(D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), Plaintiff
bears the burden of proving that the Court has subject-matter
jurisdiction to hear her claims. See Lujan v. Defenders
of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); U.S. Ecology,
Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 231 F.3d 20, 24
(D.C. Cir. 2000). A court has an “affirmative
obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of
its jurisdictional authority.” Grand Lodge of
Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9,
13 (D.D.C. 2001). For this reason, “‘the
[p]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . .
will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion'
than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a
claim.” Id. at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles A.
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and
Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1987) (alteration in
original)). Additionally, unlike with a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “may consider materials
outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion
to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.” Jerome
Stevens, 402 F.3d at 1253; see also Venetian Casino
Resort, L.L.C. v. EEOC, 409 F.3d 359, 366 (D.C. Cir.
2005) (“given the present posture of this case - a
dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) on ripeness grounds - the court
may consider materials outside the pleadings”).
12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a
complaint fails “to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted.” When the sufficiency of a complaint is
challenged under Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations
presented in it must be presumed true and should be liberally
construed in plaintiff's favor. See Leatherman v.
Tarrant Cty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination
Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993). Although “detailed
factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “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
omitted). A plaintiff must put forth “factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. Though a plaintiff may survive a 12(b)(6) motion
even if “recovery is very remote and unlikely, ”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (citing Scheuer,
416 U.S. at 236), the facts alleged in the complaint
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id. at 555.
the action is brought by a pro se plaintiff, the
Court must construe her filings liberally and hold the
complaint to “less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); see also
Schnitzler v. United States, 761 F.3d 33, 38 (D.C. Cir.
moving to dismiss, Defendants raise a series of arguments.
They first maintain that under the FTCA, sovereign immunity
deprives the Court of subject-matter jurisdiction.
See Mot. at 1. In addition, they contend that the
Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Id. The Court will consider these points
separately. Before doing so, it notes that, although
Plaintiff mentions other statutes in her Complaint, she makes
clear she is only suing under the FTCA. See Compl.
at 2 (“The complaint and/or claims herein are brought
against the United States, pursuant to the Federal ...