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Stoller v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 3, 2016

CHRISTOPHER STOLLER, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Respondents. Re Document No. 12

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING RESPONDENTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In 2011, pro se petitioner Christopher Stoller was convicted of theft by the Circuit Court of Lake County, Illinois and sentenced to eight years in prison. Mr. Stoller petitioned this Court for a writ of error coram nobis, [1] a rare form of post-conviction relief. Respondents now move to dismiss Mr. Stoller's petition, asserting that this Court lacks jurisdiction. As discussed below, Respondents' motion to dismiss is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On October 21, 2009, Petitioner Christopher Stoller was indicted in the Circuit Court of Lake County, Illinois on one count of theft of property totaling over $100, 000. Pet'r's Pet. ¶ 39, ECF No. 3. Following a jury trial, Mr. Stoller was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison by the same court. Id. ¶¶ 3, 45-46. On appeal, the Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and denied his motion for a new trial. Id. ¶ 48; Pet'r's App. A, People v. Stoller, No. 2-12-0442, 2013 WL 6858907 (Ill.App.Ct. Dec. 26, 2013). Next, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Mr. Stoller's motion for reconsideration in May of 2014. Pet'r's App. C, People v. Stoller, 8 N.E.3d 1052 (Ill. 2014). Finally, in January of 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States denied Mr. Stoller's petition for a writ of certiorari. Pet'r's App. L, Stoller v. Illinois, 135 S.Ct. 966 (2015). According to Mr. Stoller's petition, he has now “served out his sentence.”[2]Pet'r's Pet. ¶ 3. After unsuccessfully attempting these other avenues of relief, Mr. Stoller filed the current petition for a writ of error coram nobis with this Court. See generally Pet'r's Pet.

         On May 24, 2016, Respondents filed the instant motion to dismiss Mr. Stoller's petition for want of jurisdiction. See generally Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12. Respondents contend that because Mr. Stoller was neither convicted nor sentenced by this Court, it does not have proper subject matter jurisdiction to hear his coram nobis petition. Id. ¶ 10.

         On June 29, 2016, Mr. Stoller responded to the motion to dismiss. See generally Pet'r's Resp., ECF No. 18-1. Mr. Stoller argues that his petition is within this Court's jurisdiction because, inter alia, the All Writs Act provides federal district courts with the jurisdiction to hear petitions of all writs, including the writ of coram nobis. See Pet'r's Resp. ¶¶ 7-8.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Subject matter jurisdiction concerns a court's authority “to adjudicate the type of controversy presented” by the case in question. See Davis & Assocs. v. Williams, 892 A.2d 1144, 1148 (D.C. 2006) (citations omitted). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and it is generally presumed that “a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction.” Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466, 489 (2004) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). If a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it cannot reach the merits of the case, but must either dismiss it or transfer it to another court. Amerijet Int'l Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 43 F.Supp.3d 4, 20 (D.D.C. 2014). As a court of limited jurisdiction, it is imperative that this Court “begin, and end, ” with an examination of its jurisdiction. Gen. Motors Corp. v. EPA, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

         The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). When considering whether it has jurisdiction, a court accepts “the allegations of the complaint as true.” Banneker Ventures, LLC v. Graham, 798 F.3d 1119, 1129 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (citing Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992)). A court may also “consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Id. (quoting Herbert, 974 F.2d at 197).

         A pro se complaint is held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Despite this relaxed standard, a pro se plaintiff must still establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Fontaine v. Bank of Am., N.A., 43 F.Supp.3d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2014); Bickford v. Gov't of U.S., 808 F.Supp.2d 175, 179 (D.D.C. 2011); Newby v. Obama, 681 F.Supp.2d 53, 55 (D.D.C. 2010).

         B. Discussion

         Because this Court is not the sentencing court in Mr. Stoller's case, it does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear Mr. Stoller's petition. Therefore, the Respondents' ...


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