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Braun v. United States Post Office

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 27, 2017

DAVID S. BRAUN, Plaintiff,


         Plaintiff, David Steven Braun, alleges that defendant United States Postal Service ("USPS") somehow "allowed" his legal name to be changed in an unspecified "national database." He claims that this mistake has led to court-ordered electronic surveillance of his residence, made it impossible for him to obtain employment, left him without healthcare insurance, caused him to be labeled a "mental subject" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), and had a myriad of other collateral consequences.

         Pending before the Court are four motions. First, Mr. Braun moves for mandamus relief directing OMB to process tort claims submitted to the Social Security Administration in 2014. Second, the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") moves to dismiss the entire complaint for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Third, USPS moves to dismiss Mr. Braun's allegations to the extent that they do not relate to his requests under the Privacy Act of 1974 ("Privacy Act"), 5 U.S.C. § 552a. And fourth, Mr. Braun requests that the Court take "corrective action" and change the name that appears on a Post Office ("P.O.") box owned by plaintiff. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendants' motions and denies Mr. Braun's motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Mr. Braun, appearing pro se, brings this action under the Privacy Act. See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1.[1] Mr. Braun alleges that he has made at least three requests for records from USPS under the Privacy Act, and that USPS has failed to release all the information in its possession relating to those requests. See Id. ¶¶ 4-8, ECF No. 1 at 3.

         In addition to alleging violations of the Privacy Act, Mr. Braun's 12-page complaint strings together a litany of accusations that do not appear to relate to any particular cause of action. See Id. ¶¶ 1-30, ECF No. 1 at 4-12. These allegations are lodged primarily at USPS. Mr. Braun claims that a post office in Montana has "allowed fictitious tenants" to be listed as living at Mr. Braun's physical address. Id. ¶ 15, ECF No. 1 at 8. The alleged addition of these names to his records has purportedly, inter alia, permitted federal judges to "write an electronic surveillance order, " created errors in his medical records, caused the Social Security Administration to deny his disability claim, made it impossible for him to obtain employment, and has caused "major problem's [sic][2] with [his] phone and email services." See, e.g., id. ¶¶ 5-9, 14-21, ECF No. 1 at 5-9.

         Mr. Braun also attaches over 100 pages of exhibits to his complaint. See ECF No. 1 at 14-139.[3] Some of these exhibits contain correspondence between Mr. Braun and the USPS Office of the Inspector General or Inspection Service. See, e.g., id. at 13-18. Other exhibits tangentially relate to the various allegations in Mr. Braun's complaint concerning the Montana post office and his belief that the fictitious names added to his records are responsible for some of the problems he has experienced. See, e.g., ECF No. 1 at 59 (letter from County Attorney's Office informing Mr. Braun that he had been charged with disorderly conduct for his behavior at the post office); id. at 62-66 (current copy of Mr. Braun's resume); id. at 83 (results from an FBI search of Mr. Braun's fingerprints); id. at 86-97 (results of a background report for "David Steven Braun" from the PeopleSmart website); id. at 113-125 (FBI complaint form documenting Mr. Braun's visit to the Bozeman FBI office).

         The relief sought by Mr. Braun is not wholly clear. Under a section titled "Requested Goal off this suite, " Mr. Braun requests "that all records denied in this and previous request's be reviewed and processed for criminal/negligent behavior." See Id. at 12. He further states that "[t]heir seams to be this database, record issues, that might also need a court order from a Federal Judge." Id. Finally, he requests "5, 000, 000 dollars a year for life, to compensate [him] for the negligence and malicious behavior and damaged caused buy the issues brought to light in this suite." Id.

         B. Procedural History

         Mr. Braun filed his complaint on October 17, 2016. On January 10, 2017, Mr. Braun filed a motion requesting mandamus relief directing the OMB to process the claims he submitted to the Social Security Administration. See Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 11. Attached to Mr. Braun's motion are two claims submitted on Standard Form 95, "Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death." See ECF No. 11-3 at 8-11. These claims seek compensation for alleged delays in paying Mr. Braun the lump sum, back-due benefits due to him after his disability benefits were approved by the Social Security Administration. Id. at 5-6. OMB filed its opposition to that motion on January 30, 2017. See OMB's Opp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 20. Mr. Braun filed his reply one day later on January 31, 2017. Pl.'s Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 21.

         On January 30, 2017, defendants filed motions to dismiss Mr. Braun's complaint. OMB filed a motion to dismiss the entire complaint as barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity and for failure to state a claim. See OMB Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 22. USPS filed a partial motion to dismiss, requesting dismissal of all of Mr. Braun's allegations except for those related to the Privacy Act. See USPS's Partial Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 23. On February 11, 2017 Mr. Braun filed an opposition to USPS's motion to dismiss. See Pl.'s Opp. to USPS Partial Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 25. USPS filed its reply on February 21, 2017. See USPS's Reply in Supp. of Partial Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 27. Mr. Braun did not file any opposition to OMB's motion to dismiss.

         On July 20, 2017, Mr. Braun filed another motion. See Mot. for the Court to Take Corrective Action ("Pl.'s Mot. to Correct"), ECF No. 37. In this motion, Mr. Braun asks the Court to "take what ever corrective action is necessary" to address the fact that the registration information for one P.O. box he owns omits his middle initial. See Id. Defendants filed their opposition to Mr. Braun's motion on August 4, 2017. See Defs.' Opp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Correct, ECF No. 39. Mr. Braun filed his reply on August 6, 2017. See Pl.'s Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Correct, ECF No. 40.


         A. Rule 12(b)(1) - Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994), and a Rule 12(b)(1) motion for dismissal presents a threshold challenge to a court's jurisdiction, Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). To survive a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). Indeed, when it comes to Rule 12(b)(1), it is "presumed that a cause lies outside [the federal courts'] limited jurisdiction unless the plaintiff establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the Court possesses jurisdiction." Cofield v. United States, 64 F.Supp.3d 206, 211 (D.D.C. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Because Rule 12(b)(1) concerns a court's ability to hear a particular claim, "the court must scrutinize the plaintiff's allegations more closely when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) than it would under a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Schmidt v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 826 F.Supp.2d 59, 65 (D.D.C. 2011). As such, the court "need not limit itself to the allegations in the complaint, " but rather, "may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question whether it has jurisdiction in the case." Rann v. Chao, 154 F.Supp.2d 61, 64 (D.D.C. 2001) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Nor must the court "accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or legal conclusions that are cast as factual allegations." Id. Still, in evaluating such a motion, the Court must "accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, " Wilson v. District of Columbia, 269 F.R.D. 8, 11 (D.D.C. 2010) (citation omitted), and should review the complaint liberally while accepting all inferences favorable to the plaintiff, see Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

         Faced with motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6), a court should first consider the Rule 12(b)(1) motion because "[o]nce a court determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it can proceed no further." Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Jackson, 815 F.Supp.2d 85, 90 (D.D.C. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) - Failure to State a Claim

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Despite this liberal pleading standard, 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled in the complaint allow the court to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The standard does not amount to a ...

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