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Hill v. Wilson Smoot

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 29, 2018

GEORGE V. HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
J. PATRICIA WILSON SMOOT et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Reggie B. Walton, United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, appearing pro se, has sued the Chairperson of the United States Parole Commission (“USPC”), J. Patricia Smoot, and two employees of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (“CSOSA”), Maria T. Cecala and Akil Walker, for alleged improper disclosures of his personal information and the wrongful use of such information. See Complaint (“Compl.”) at 1, ECF No. 1. The plaintiff seeks a total of $200, 000 in monetary damages. See id. at 2. The defendants have moved to dismiss this case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Motion to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mot.”), ECF No. 8. The plaintiff has filed an opposition, ECF No. 11, and the defendants have filed a reply to the opposition, ECF No. 12. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, and for the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Although CSOSA is established “within the executive branch of the Federal Government, ” D.C. Code § 24-133(a) (2001), CSOSA supervises “offenders on probation, parole, and supervised release pursuant to the District of Columbia Official Code, ” D.C. Code § 24-133(c)(1) (2016). CSOSA's “supervision officers . . . have and exercise the same powers and authority as are granted by law to United States Probation and Pretrial Officers.” Id. § 24-133(d). This action stems from CSOSA's supervision of the plaintiff, who alleges the following.[1]

         On “more than one occasion” between October 2015 and March 2016, Cecala, whom the plaintiff identifies in the caption of the complaint as a Community Supervision Officer (“CSO”) for CSOSA, “knowingly and willingly” released information “from the plaintiff's personal and confidential file maintained by [ ]CSOSA[ ] without authorization to known and unknown individuals.” Compl. at 1. According to the plaintiff, Cecala (hereafter “CSO Cecala”): (1) “used her office to obtain unverified and misleading unsubstantiated information from [his] former mental health provider (Crawford Consultants), that was wrongfully used against [his] parole status”; (2) “divulged misleading and unsubstantiated information to [his] former mental health care providers' nurse Barney Dank without authorization”; and (3) gave unauthorized and unsubstantiated information to a pretrial services agent attorney, without authorization[.]” Id. The “unverified information obtained by . . . [CSO] Cecala was used along with the arrest information to write a violation report to the USPC, which led to a warrant for [the plaintiff's] arrest” and his “commitment to DC jail for approximately one [ ] month of incarceration.” Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Under the Local Rule of the Court at 2 (“Pl.'s Opp'n”), ECF No. 11. The plaintiff also alleges that in March 2016, CSO Cecala “divulge[d] information to an attorney representing [him] in the arrest case.” Id.

         As a result of CSO Cecala's alleged conduct, the plaintiff concludes that while acting “under color of law of her office, ” CSO Cecala violated his “right to privacy, without authorization, and without consideration for plaintiff's equal protection, or civil rights to due process.” Compl. at 1. He also accuses CSO Cecala “of a HIPPA violation.” Id.

         The plaintiff faults CSO Cecala's supervisor, Akil Walker, for allegedly failing “to take appropriate action or give proper review under agency regulation to investigate plaintiff's complaint after being notified on two or more occasions of agency regulations violations by his [subordinate] Maria T. Cecala.” Id. at 2. The plaintiff also faults Chairperson Smoot for allegedly failing “to respond or take any action or make official review of plaintiff's complaint of agency regulations violations” by CSO Cecala and Walker, whom the plaintiff mistakenly describes as “agents of the USPC.” Id. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) at 10 n.4 (noting that “the USPC and CSOSA are separate agencies, and Chairman Smoot is not a superior of either Cecala or Walker”); see also D.C. Code § 23-133(b) (creating within CSOSA “a Director appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of six years”).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(1)

         A motion for dismissal under 12(b)(1) “presents a threshold challenge to the court's jurisdiction . . . .” Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987); see also Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001) (noting that “a Rule 12(b)(1) motion imposes on the court an affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority”). Accordingly, the Court must dismiss a claim if the Court “lack[s] . . . subject matter jurisdiction [.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Under Rule 12(b)(1), “it is to be presumed that a cause lies outside [a federal court's] limited jurisdiction, ” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994), and the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the Court's jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence, see, e.g., Moore v. Bush, 535 F.Supp.2d 46, 47 (D.D.C. 2008). In deciding a motion to dismiss based upon lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, a Court is not limited to the allegations set forth in the complaint, but “may consider materials outside the pleadings . . . .” Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). And when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the Court is required to accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993).

         B. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint properly “state[s] a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Rule 8(a) requires only that a complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), a plaintiff must provide “more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation, ” id. Rather, the “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). However, a complaint alleging “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         “In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must construe the complaint ‘in favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'” Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). However, conclusory allegations are not entitled to an assumption of truth, and even those allegations pleaded with factual support need only be accepted insofar as “they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         C. Pr ...


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