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Endeley v. United States Department of Defense

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 3, 2017

SAINT JERMAINE ENDELEY Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE and NATIONAL CLANDESTINE SERVICE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS, United States District Judge

         On April 6, 2017, the United States fired fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield in Syria. See Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis on U.S. Strike in Syria, Release No. NR-126-17 (Apr. 6, 2017).[1] In a statement announcing the missile strike, President Trump explained that Syria had “launched a horrible chemical weapons attack” on its own citizens and that, in response, he had “ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.” Statement by President Trump on Syria, White House, Office of the Press Secretary (Apr. 6, 2017).[2] The purpose of the missile strike, as President Trump further explained, was “to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” Id. President Trump did not seek authorization from Congress before ordering the strike, nor did he identify any preexisting congressional authorization for the use of military force.

         Four days after the strike, plaintiff Saint Jermaine Endeley filed this pro se action against the Department of Defense and the National Clandestine Service of the Central Intelligence Agency.[3] See Dkt. 2. Plaintiff alleges that the missile strike “was unconstitutional under [t]he War Powers Resolution because the President did not seek approval from Congress;” that “[t]he office of the President has publicly admitted more military action is to follow;” and that “[t]he President does not have authority to launch a war in Syria without a resolution from Congress.” Id. at 3. In addition, he alleges that “[t]he Department of Defense illegally used [t]he Patriot Act and unconstitutionally expanded [its] authority under the provisions of the law.” Id. Plaintiff requests that the Court issue an “injunction ending military action against the government of Syria” and barring “any further military action . . . without approval from Congress through a resolution.” Id. at 4.

         Viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court concludes that it fails to allege facts sufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court will, on its own motion, DISMISS the action for lack of jurisdiction.[4]

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff commenced this action on April 10, 2017, by filing suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Dkt. 2. He alleges that four days earlier, “[o]n April 6, 2017, [t]he defense department launched approximately [fifty-nine] Tomahawk missiles into Syria as a response to President Bashir Al-Assad's recent chemical attack on civilians.” Id. at 3. This “attack” represented “part of [President Trump's] strategy of deterrence against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government” and, according to Plaintiff, resulted in the “destr[uction] [of] an airbase that belonged to a Syrian government institution.” Id. He further alleges that the President “did not seek approval from Congress” before ordering the strike, id., and that allegation is indisputably correct. As the President explained in his notice to Congress (which is subject to judicial notice, see Fed. R. Evid. 201), in ordering the strike, he relied on his “constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and” to serve “as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.” Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate (Apr. 8, 2017).[5] In that same notice, moreover, the President cautioned that he was prepared to “take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further [the] important national interests” of the United States. Id. Expanding on that statement, Plaintiff avers that “the office of the President has publicly admitted more military action is to follow.” Dkt. 2 at 3.

         Recognizing the need to plead facts sufficient to establish Article III standing, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' actions have caused him to “suffer[]” injury. Id. In particular, he contends that “[his] firm has a diplomatic mission to remove President Assad by delegitimizing his government and ensuring a free election where the Syrian people can elect a new leader” and that, in pursuit of this mission, “[his] firm is currently [engaged] in lobbying efforts with the United States government and [the] United Nations.” Id. Those efforts have been “complicate[d]” by the April 6 strike, according to Plaintiff, because “[t]he government of Syria is less likely to listen to United States officials if” U.S. military forces are “attacking [Syrian] government institutions.” Id. He asserts that both the airstrikes and the potential for further attacks on Syrian government institutions have “create[d] more obstacles to an eventual peace deal” and have thus required that his firm devote additional “time, labor, and money” to the firm's “diplomatic mission.” Id. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that he has “spent significant time, labor, [and] money on ensuring good government practices in the United States government” and that “it is [his] job to regulate administrative agencies when they act unconstitutionally.” Id.

         On April 11, 2017, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York transferred Plaintiff's suit to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) on the ground that venue is proper here but not in New York. Dkt. 3 at 2. The transferring court did not rule on Plaintiff's pending motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, see Dkt. 1, noting that “[w]hether [Plaintiff] should be permitted to proceed further without payment of fees is a determination to be made by the transferee court, ” Dkt. 3 at 2. Although it is the Court's responsibility to effect service on behalf of litigants proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), the Court has postponed doing so pending its evaluation of the threshold jurisdictional issues discussed below.

         B. Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff's claims require some parsing. To start, it is unclear whether he intends to assert a stand-alone claim under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, [6] or, instead, merely intends to assert statutory claims. He alleges, for example, that the missile strike “was unconstitutional under [t]he War Powers Resolution” and that “[t]he Executive Branch acted without constitutional authority required under [t]he War Powers Resolution.” Dkt. 2 at 3 (emphases added). Although one might reasonably construe these allegations only to assert a claim “under the War Powers Resolution, ” and not a separate claim under Article I, Section 8, the Court is required to construe Plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam), and, accordingly, will assume that he intends to allege both statutory and constitutional claims.

         Plaintiff also asserts that the United States' missile strike on Syria was an “unconstitutional[] expan[sion] [of] [Defendants'] authority under the provisions of the” USA PATRIOT Act. Dkt. 2 at 3. The USA PATRIOT Act, however, does not address the President's authority (or the Department of Defense's authority) to use military force. Once again construing Plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally, however, the Court will assume that he actually intends to reference the Authorization for Use of Military Force (“AUMF”), Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001), enacted by Congress the week after the September 11th terrorist attacks. The AUMF authorizes the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” Pub. L. No. 107-40, § 2(a). So construed, Plaintiff's complaint alleges that the missile strike on “an airbase that belonged to a Syrian government institution” went beyond the scope of the AUMF, which (he says) authorizes the President to “attack terrorist organizations that target the United States” but does not permit “an attack on another government.” Dkt. 2 at 3.

         Thus, liberally construed, Plaintiff's complaint alleges that the President's use of force to attack the Al Shayrat airfield, and his threat to use additional force “as necessary and appropriate . . . to further [the] important national interests” of the United States, exceeded and threatens further to exceed his authority under Article 1, § 8 of the Constitution, the War Powers Resolution, and the AUMF. As redress, Plaintiff seeks a “court injunction ending military action against the government of Syria and a limitation on Presidential authority to expand the [AUMF].” Id. at 4. In addition, he asks the Court to prohibit the Department of Defense from “begin[ning] any further military action against the government of Syria without approval from Congress through a resolution” and to order the Department to “submit a plan to Congress detailing their military operations in Syria against terrorist organizations.” Id.

         II. ...


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