United States District Court, District of Columbia
ARABA J. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
TYRONE WILSON, et al., Defendants.
BERMAN JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Araba J. Harris has brought this action, pro se,
against defendants Tyrone Wilson and Joseph Bush, who are
employees of the U.S. Postal Service ("USPS"),
alleging that they assaulted her when she went to the post
office to buy stamps on July 7, 2016. On behalf of the
defendants, the United States has moved to dismiss the case.
Because defendants were acting within the scope of their
employment at the time of the alleged tort, this case must be
brought against the United States. And since plaintiff has
not exhausted the administrative steps she must pursue before
she may sue the government in Court, the Court will grant the
motion and will dismiss this case without prejudice. This
means that plaintiff is not barred from filing a proper
action in the future.
following facts, which the Court must accept as true at this
stage of the proceedings, are set forth in plaintiffs
complaint and were supplemented by plaintiffs opposition to
the motion to dismiss. Ex. A to Notice of Removal [Dkt. #
1-1] ("Compl."); Pl.'s Mem. in Opp. of Mot. to
Dismiss [Dkt. # 9] ("Pl.'s Mem."); see
Schnitzler v. United States, 761 F.3d 33, 38 (D.C. Cir.
2014) (requiring a court to consider a. pro se
plaintiffs "filings as a whole" in resolving a
motion to dismiss).
complaint states simply that on July 7, 2016, she "went
to buy stamps with [her] signed credit card and was assaulted
by Officer Wilson." Compl. In her memorandum in
opposition to the motion to dismiss, plaintiff supplies
additional facts. She states that when she went to pay for
the stamps at the post office, she was asked for
identification. Pl.'s Mem. at 2. Believing that the
request for identification was a pretext for race-based
discrimination, she called USPS Customer Service to lodge a
complaint while she was still at the post office.
Id. at 2, 5. During the call, plaintiff asked the
representative whether the call was being recorded.
Id. at 2. Plaintiff alleges that this upset
"the Customer Service Manager." Id. The
manager's role is somewhat unclear from the memorandum,
but plaintiff appears to be referring to a USPS employee at
the post office branch where she was standing, who then
allegedly refused to sell the plaintiff stamps. Id.
Plaintiff claims that when she refused to leave the post
office, the defendants dragged her to the curb. Id.
6, 2017, plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the Small Claims and
Conciliation Branch of the Superior Court for the District of
Columbia, alleging that she was assaulted by the postal
workers. Compl. The United States removed the action to this
Court on July 26, 2017, and they attached to the notice of
removal a certification that the postal employees were acting
in the scope of their employment at the time. Notice of
Removal [Dkt. # 1-2]. The United States then moved to dismiss
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief could be granted. Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 5]
("U.S. Mot."). Plaintiff opposed the motion,
Pl.'s Mem., and she also filed a motion to consolidate
this case with the claims she made "at different levels
of the USPS." Pl.'s Mot. to Consolidate Claims [Dkt.
# 10] at 1. The United States did not file a reply.
evaluating a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or
12(b)(6), 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)
(internal citations omitted), quoting Schuler v. United
States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979); see also
Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139
(D.C. Cir. 2011). Nevertheless, the Court need not accept
inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are
unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the
Court accept plaintiffs legal conclusions. Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing
jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See
Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992);
Shekoyan v. Sibley Int'l Corp., 217 F.Supp.2d
59, 63 (D.D.C. 2002). Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies
outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994);
see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. EPA, 363 F.3d 442, 448
(D.C. Cir. 2004) ("As a court of limited jurisdiction,
we begin, and end, with an examination of our
jurisdiction."). "[B]ecause subject-matter
jurisdiction is 'an Art[icle] III as well as a statutory
requirement ... no action of the parties can confer
subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court.'"
Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971
(D.C. Cir. 2003), quoting Ins. Corp. of Ir., Ltd. v.
Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702
considering a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction,
unlike when deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),
the court "is not limited to the allegations of the
complaint." Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d
227, 241 (D.C. Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds,
482 U.S. 64 (1987). Rather, "a court may consider such
materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to
resolve the question [of] whether it has jurisdiction to hear
the case." Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections &
Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000), citing
Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192,
197 (D.C. Cir. 1992); see also Jerome Stevens Pharm.,
Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
Failure to State a Claim
survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] 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 (2009), quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court
reiterated the two principles underlying its decision in
Twombly: "First, the tenet that a court must
accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions, " and
"[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible
claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss."
Id. at 678-79.
is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content
"allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. at 678, citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a
'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than
a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Id., quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556. A pleading must offer more than "labels and
conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action, " id., quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and "[t]hreadbare
recitals of the ...