United States District Court, District of Columbia
RANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge.
se Plaintiff Luis Ivan Poblete brings this action
against the U.S. Marshals Service, two judges of the D.C.
Superior Court, and a D.C.-based law firm. Dkt. 1-1 at 7, 21.
Poblete filed suit in D.C. Superior Court, but the U.S.
Marshals Service removed the action here pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1442, which authorizes the removal of actions
filed in state courts against federal agencies. See Dkt.
1 at 2. It is difficult to discern the nature of
Poblete's claims or what relief he seeks. His
pleading-which he styles a “Writ of
Mandamus/Prohibition”-is close to unintelligible.
See generally Dkt. 1-1 at 7-20 (hereinafter
Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a
claim. See Dkt. 2 at 4; Dkt. 3 at 2-3; Dkt. 5 at
6-7. The U.S. Marshals Service and the D.C. judges have also
moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, on
the theory that Poblete's claims are “patently
insubstantial.” Dkt. 2 at 5; Dkt. 5 at 7-8. Poblete has
failed to oppose these motions, despite having been advised
of the consequences of such a failure. See Dkt. 6.
arguments raise a novel issue of federal jurisdiction
unaddressed by the parties. Having considered it, the Court
concludes that the “patently insubstantial”
exception to federal question subject-matter jurisdiction is
inapplicable to suits removed to federal court by federal
agencies pursuant to § 1442. Remand to D.C. Superior
Court is therefore unnecessary, and the Court can reach the
merits. On the merits, Poblete's pleading fails to state
a claim. The Court, accordingly, will GRANT Defendants'
unopposed motions and will DISMISS the action.
pleading is difficult to follow, but his grievance apparently
stems from a prior lawsuit against him in D.C. Superior Court
to compel foreclosure of certain property. Petition ¶ 3.
The defendant judges presided over that underlying action,
and the defendant law firm represented the plaintiff in that
action. The underlying action was subsequently removed to
federal court, and has now been dismissed as moot. See
Residential Credit Opportunities Tr. v. Poblete, No.
16-cv-561, 2017 WL 1183929 (D.D.C. Mar. 29, 2017).
currently pending action, the crux of Poblete's
allegations appears to be that the D.C. Superior Court lacked
jurisdiction to hear the underlying foreclosure suit.
Petition ¶ 3. According to Poblete, “the Common
Law of England” and 42 U.S.C. § 1988 authorize a
“Writ of Mandamus/Prohibition, ” which
“arrests the proceedings of any tribunal” acting
“in excess of [its] jurisdiction.” Id.
¶¶ 2-4. He then asserts that the D.C. Superior
Court lacked jurisdiction because the foreclosure action was
“in breach of the public trust, outside of the
Court[']s ministerial duty, and without proof of
delegation of authority or jurisdiction of any kind.”
Id. ¶ 5. To this he adds that he, and not the
plaintiff seeking to foreclose, has the “Superior
Claim” to the foreclosed property. Id. ¶
6. According to Poblete, each defendant is “acting in
fraud and in violation of God's covenant” by
“attempting to enforce an unlawful lien” on his
property “in violation of 17 C.F.R. 450 et seq. and
the Holy Covenant of the Creator God.” Id.
further alleges that “[t]he Superior Court of the
District of Columbia is a criminal enterprise.”
Id. ¶ 14. He claims that the court “is
under the direct supervision” of the defendant judges,
whom he says are “known to have acted without
jurisdiction.” Id. ¶ 15. As a
consequence, he alleges, both judges “have become
trespassers of the law and are engaged in treason.”
Id. ¶ 16. Poblete concludes with the allegation
that “ANY JUDGE THAT ACTS in regards to this instant
matter will be acting as a fiduciary, and in direction
violation of the judicial canons of this state.”
Id. ¶ 19.
Court first rejects the argument that subject-matter
jurisdiction is lacking because Poblete's claims are too
“patently insubstantial” to “present [a]
federal question.” Best v. Kelly, 39 F.3d 328,
330 (D.C. Cir. 1994). To be sure, Poblete's claims
are insubstantial-but that fact poses no
jurisdictional bar. As explained below, federal agencies are
entitled to defend themselves in federal court, see
28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1), even against
“insubstantial” claims. The Court therefore has
jurisdiction to decide the case, and need not remand it to
D.C. Superior Court as might otherwise be
required. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
doctrine in question holds generally that “a suit may
sometimes be dismissed for want of jurisdiction where the
alleged claim under the Constitution or federal statutes . .
. is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.” Bell v.
Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682-83 (1946). That rule has been
the subject of some criticism, see, e.g., Yazoo
Cty. Indus. Dev. Corp. v. Suthoff, 454 U.S. 1157,
1159-62 (1982) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting from denial of
petition for writ of certiorari), and courts rarely dwell on
its analytic origins. But it apparently derives from
limitations read into 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and similar
statutes that supply subject-matter jurisdiction in cases
“arising under” federal law. See
generally 13D Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 3564 (3d ed.
updated Apr. 2017). Although Article III permits Congress to
grant federal jurisdiction over “any case . .
. that might call for the application of federal
law, ” Verlinden B.V. v. Cent. Bank of
Nigeria, 461 U.S. 480, 492 (1983) (emphases added), the
“arising under” statutes are less expansive.
Under the “well-pleaded complaint” rule, for
example, a case typically “arises under” federal
law within the meaning of § 1331 only if the federal
question appears on the face of the complaint (as opposed to
in a defense). Id. at 494 (citing Louisville
& Nashville R.R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149
(1908)). The “patently insubstantial” rule is a
recognition that some allegations, although they may
nominally reference federal law, are simply too outlandish to
create an actual federal controversy within the meaning of
in this case, however, exists independently of § 1331 or
any other “arising under” statute. Instead,
jurisdiction flows from 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1), which
grants federal agencies an “absolute” right of
removal in state court cases brought against them.
Willingham, 395 U.S. at 406. Section 1442 likewise
confers subject-matter jurisdiction over such cases
“regardless of whether the suit could originally have
been brought in a federal court.” Id. As a
result, the strictures of § 1331 are inapplicable, and
the lack of a substantial federal question on the face of
Poblete's pleading is of no jurisdictional
significance. See Mesa v. California, 489 U.S.
121, 136-37 (1989). After all, Congress enacted § 1442
to shield federal actors from potentially “hostile
state courts.” See Willingham, 395 U.S. at
405-06. It would be anomalous, to say the least, if that
protection extended to all claims against the United States
except those which a federal judge has deemed
utterly devoid of merit.
Court, accordingly, holds that the “patently
insubstantial” nature of Poblete's claims is
immaterial to the presence ...