United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
2017, Plaintiff Patricia Gavin, proceeding pro se,
filed this lawsuit to seek various forms of relief related to
her student loans. This Opinion concerns four issues: (1)
whether the doctrine of state sovereign immunity bars
Gavin's claims against the Illinois Student Assistance
Commission (“ISAC”); (2) Gavin's motion to
amend her complaint (ECF No. 62); (3) Gavin's motion to
“stay” a change in her disability status that was
apparently made by the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) (ECF No. 55); and (4) Gavin's motion
for summary judgment (ECF No. 54). For the reasons explained
below, Gavin's claims against ISAC will be dismissed, and
all three motions will be denied. In addition, the Court will
order Nelnet, Inc. to file its motion for judgment on the
pleadings by June 14, 2018.
difficult to discern a coherent narrative from Gavin's
various filings in this case.Nonetheless, taking as true
Gavin's allegations for purposes of this Opinion, she
appears to describe a series of unfortunate circumstances
that led her to take on student loans she has been unable to
repay. She appears to have made some of the same allegations
in previous litigation. See Gavin v. Prudential Office of
Servicemen's Grp. Life Ins. Co., 72 F.Supp.3d 332
(D.D.C. 2014), aff'd, No. 15-7007, 2016 WL
4098810 (D.C. Cir. July 18, 2016).
served in the Air Force from 1985 to 1992, and then in the
Air Force Reserve from 1995 to 1998. Reinstatement Mot.
¶ 9. Her ex-husband also served in the Air Force until
his retirement in 1999. See Proposed Am. Compl., Ex.
B. They divorced in 2003. See SJ Mot. ¶ 1.
According to Gavin, after the divorce, members of her
ex-husband's family hid marital assets from her and
ginned up false charges of assault against her to separate
her from her children. See Compl. ¶¶
17-18, 23-25, 31-32. These false charges also allegedly
prevented Gavin from being employed. See Id. ¶
25. Finding herself without a job, Gavin pursued an MBA
program offered by Defendant Keller Graduate School of
Management (“Keller”), causing her to take on
student loans. Id. ¶ 35; Reinstatement Mot.
¶¶ 62-63. She claims that Keller's “false
advertising” and “deceptive trade
practices” induced her to take on these loans. Proposed
Am. Comp. at 2.
also alleges that, starting in 2006, she became the victim of
a fraud perpetrated by her divorce attorney, who worked for
the law firm Godwin Gruber. Compl. ¶¶ 8-9, 19. The
lawyer allegedly abused a power of attorney to obtain social
security benefits in Gavin's name that were never passed
on to her. See Id. ¶ 26; Pl.'s ISAC Br.
¶ 22, 48. The attorney also allegedly engaged in other
misconduct while representing Gavin in lawsuits in Texas and
Louisiana. See Compl. ¶¶ 19-22; Pl.'s
ISAC Br. ¶¶ 20-22; Reinstatement Mot. ¶¶
37, 39, 73. This misconduct allegedly deprived her of income,
requiring her to take on additional student loans.
See Mot. for Inj. ¶ 8.
ex-husband came out of retirement in 2009. See
Pl.'s ISAC Br. ¶ 6. As a result, Gavin no longer
received a share of his retirement benefits, causing her to
fall behind on her loan payments. See id.; Change of
Address ¶ 10; Reinstatement Mot. ¶ 57; SJ Mot.
¶ 1; Stay Mot. ¶ 4. Around the same time, someone
allegedly forged Gavin's signature on a form waiving her
right to her survivor benefits in the event of her
husband's death. Mot. for Inj. ¶ 12. Gavin
attributes this forgery to family members, see Id.
¶ 15, and also asserts that the federal government was
responsible for it, see Id. ¶ 16, apparently on
the theory that the military was negligent in failing to spot
the forgery, see Change of Address ¶¶ 4-5.
Gavin claims that the forgery enabled her husband's
return to the Air Force and thereby caused her to lose her
share of his retirement benefits, although it is unclear how.
See Id. ¶ 3; Pl.'s ISAC Br. ¶ 26.
2012, Gavin's ex-husband and his second wife were found
dead in their home in Louisiana. See Compl.
¶¶ 4-5; Pl.'s ISAC Br. ¶ 10. In
Gavin's telling, the deaths brought to light the forgery
of Gavin's purported waiver of her survivor benefits, and
the Air Force corrected the forgery by restoring those
benefits to Gavin. Compl. ¶ 7. Gavin subsequently
engaged in litigation with Defendant Prudential Office of
Servicemen's Group Life Insurance Company
(“Prudential”), seeking proceeds from her
ex-husband's life insurance. See Id. ¶ 15.
Gavin claims that her prior lawsuit was dismissed due to an
unspecified “fraud upon the courts and
incurred additional tuition obligations when she enrolled in
a master of legal studies program at the University of
Oklahoma. Id. ¶ 2. Gavin claims that, because
several of the Defendants improperly kept her prior student
loans in default status, she ultimately had to withdraw from
the program. See Reinstatement Mot. ¶¶
28-29, 31; Proposed Am. Compl. at 5.
filed her complaint in April 2017 against the following
Defendants: the Department of Education, Department of the
Air Force, and Department of the Interior (the “Federal
Agency Defendants”); Donald Godwin and Michael Gruber
(the “Attorney Defendants”); ISAC; American
Education Services, Inc. (“AES”); Navient
Solutions, LLC and Sallie Mae Bank (the “Sallie Mae
Defendants”); Nelnet, Inc. (“Nelnet”);
Prudential; and Keller. Compl. at 1-3. She did not clearly
assert any particular cause of action, but did request relief
under the Tucker Act. See Id. at 3. The relief that
Plaintiff seeks appears primarily to relate to her student
loans, and includes a discharge of her loans and an order
ending the garnishment of her income by ISAC. See
Id. ¶ 1.
for Nelnet (which answered Gavin's complaint) and ISAC
(which has not appeared), the Defendants filed motions to
dismiss over the next few months. The Defendants argued as
• The Federal Agency Defendants moved to dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and also for failure to
state a claim on the ground that Gavin failed to describe any
misconduct by the government or to assert any recognized
cause of action. See ECF No. 39-1 at 4-7.
• The Attorney Defendants, who had been name partners at
Godwin Gruber (the since-disbanded law firm that employed
Gavin's divorce attorney), argued that the Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction over Gavin's claims against
them; that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over them,
because they are not residents of the District of Columbia
and because all of Gavin's claims against them arose from
conduct in Texas and Louisiana; that Gavin failed to state a
claim against them; and that she failed to plead her fraud
allegations with particularity. See ECF No. 10 at
3-12; ECF No. 20 at 3-12.
• The Sallie Mae Defendants moved to dismiss on the
ground that Gavin's complaint described no conduct they
had committed and thus failed to state a claim against them.
See ECF No. 7 at 4-5.
• AES moved to dismiss on the ground that Gavin had
failed to state a claim for relief against it, because it is
merely a loan servicer and does not itself hold any debt
against Gavin; AES also argued Gavin had failed to exhaust
her administrative remedies under federal education law for
any claim that she is entitled to a discharge of her student
loans. See ECF No. 14-1 at 6-8.
• Prudential argued that Gavin had failed to state a
claim against it; that it had not been properly served; and
that res judicata barred Gavin's claims, which
she had previously litigated in this District. See