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Gavin v. Department of Air Force

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 24, 2018

PATRICIA GAVIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, ECF No. 69, filed by Defendant Nelnet, Inc. (“Nelnet”) and two motions filed by Plaintiff Patricia Gavin: a Motion for Reconsideration, ECF No. 65 (“Pl.'s Mot.”), and an Amended Motion for Reconsideration, ECF No. 72 (“Pl.'s Am. Mot.”). The Court assumes familiarity with the factual and procedural background of the case as set forth in its prior Memorandum Opinion and Order dated May 15, 2018. See ECF No. 63 (“May Opinion”); Gavin v. Dep't of Air Force, No. 17-cv-768 (TJK), 2018 WL 2223662 (D.D.C. May 15, 2018). For the reasons set forth below, Nelnet's motion will be granted, and Gavin's motions denied.

         A. Nelnet's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Nelnet has moved for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). See ECF No. 69-1 (“Nelnet Br.”); see also ECF No. 78 (“Pl.'s Opp'n”); ECF No. 79. “[A] Rule 12(c) motion . . . is functionally equivalent to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” Rollins v. Wackenhut Servs., Inc., 703 F.3d 122, 130 (D.C. Cir. 2012). “In considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court should ‘accept as true the allegations in the opponent's pleadings' and ‘accord the benefit of all reasonable inferences to the non-moving party.'” Stewart v. Evans, 275 F.3d 1126, 1132 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Haynesworth v. Miller, 820 F.2d 1245, 1249 n.11 (D.C. Cir. 1987)). “But the Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if those inferences are not supported by the facts set out in the complaint, nor must the court accept legal conclusions cast as factual allegations.” Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012). As under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must have ‘facial plausibility,' meaning it must ‘plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         The Court will grant the motion, because at least two considerations require dismissal of Gavin's claims against Nelnet.

         First, as Nelnet argues, the complaint does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” as required by Rule 8(a)(2). Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); see Nelnet Br. at 16. “‘[A] complaint that is excessively long, rambling, disjointed, incoherent, or full of irrelevant and confusing material' will patently fail the Rule's standard, and so will ‘a complaint that contains an untidy assortment of claims that are neither plainly nor concisely stated, nor meaningfully distinguished from bold conclusions, sharp harangues and personal comments.'” Jiggetts v. District of Columbia, 319 F.R.D. 408, 413 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting T.M. v. District of Columbia, 961 F.Supp.2d 169, 174 (D.D.C. 2013)), aff'd sub nom. Cooper v. District of Columbia, No. 17-7021, 2017 WL 5664737 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 1, 2017). That fairly describes Gavin's complaint, which leaves the reader guessing exactly what her claims are, which claims are brought against which Defendants, and how her disjointed factual allegations support those claims. See ECF No. 1. Her subsequent filings have added little clarity.

         Second, to the extent the Court can discern a claim against Nelnet from Gavin's filings, it is not one on which relief can be granted. Gavin appears to claim that Nelnet, her loan servicer, is required to discharge her federal student loans. But there is no private right of action under the Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., which governs federal student loans. See McCulloch v. PNC Bank Inc., 298 F.3d 1217, 1221 (11th Cir. 2002) (collecting cases); Kemper v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 285 F.Supp.3d 145, 149 (D.D.C. 2018). Rather, a discharge must be sought administratively from the Secretary of Education. See, e.g., Johnson v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 580 F.Supp.2d 154 (2008) (example of APA challenge to denial of student-loan discharge). Gavin does not claim to have ever requested a discharge administratively.[1] And even if Gavin did have a cause of action for discharge of her student loans, it does not appear that Nelnet would be a proper defendant. See Johnson v. Duncan, 746 F.Supp.2d 163, 168 n.4 (D.D.C. 2010) (explaining that loan servicer had “no power or authority to discharge [plaintiff's] federally guaranteed student loans”).

         Nelnet's brief also presents other potentially meritorious arguments for dismissing Gavin's claims. See Nelnet Br. Gavin, for her part, provides no meaningful response to these arguments, instead reciting a hodgepodge of allegations that, for the most part, do not even mention Nelnet. See Pl's Opp'n. By failing to address Nelnet's arguments, Gavin has effectively conceded them. See Wannall v. Honeywell, Inc., 775 F.3d 425, 428 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The Court will not address these other arguments in detail, because the foregoing analysis makes sufficiently clear that Gavin's claims against Nelnet must be dismissed.

         B. Gavin's Motions for Reconsideration

         Gavin has filed two motions seeking reconsideration of the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order dated May 15, 2018. Pl.'s Mot.; Pl.'s Am. Mot. In addition to reconsideration, the motions also seek various other relief. All of these requests will be denied.

         1. Reconsideration

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) “recognizes [the court's] inherent power to reconsider an interlocutory order ‘as justice requires.'” Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, Inc. v. Guest Servs., Inc., 630 F.3d 217, 227 (D.C. Cir. 2011). “Considerations a court may take into account under the ‘as justice requires' standard include whether the court ‘patently' misunderstood the parties, made a decision beyond the adversarial issues presented, made an error in failing to consider controlling decisions or data, or whether a controlling or significant change in the law has occurred.” Univ. of Colo. Health at Mem'l Hosp. v. Burwell, 164 F.Supp.3d 56, 62 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting Isse v. Am. Univ., 544 F.Supp.2d 25, 29 (D.D.C. 2008)). “In general, ‘a court will grant a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order only when the movant demonstrates: (1) an intervening change in the law; (2) the discovery of new evidence not previously available; or (3) a clear error in the first order.'” Id. (quoting Stewart v. Panetta, 826 F.Supp.2d 176, 177 (D.D.C. 2011)).

         In support of her requests for reconsideration, Gavin asserts that the Court's prior opinion contained the following error: the Court supposedly stated that her ex-husband retired in 2003, when in fact he “served in the Louisiana Air National Guard from 2000 to 2009.” See Pl.'s Mot. ¶ 4. She argues that this allegation is the “fulcrum” of her claims. Id. ¶ 14.

         This argument does not accurately describe the Court's prior opinion, nor does it justify reconsideration. In attempting to summarize Gavin's allegations, the Court's prior opinion stated that Gavin's ex-husband “served in the Air Force until his retirement in 1999” and “came out of retirement in 2009.” May Opinion at 2, 3. These statements reflected Gavin's own filings, which stated that “[i]n 1999 he left the military to accept an assignment in private industry, ” and that he “was returned to active duty in 2009.” ECF No. 62-1 at 14, 15. It may well be that the word “retirement” was ill chosen, since Gavin also alleges that her ex-husband served in the Louisiana Air National Guard in the interim. See Id. at 14. But absolutely nothing in the Court's prior opinion turned on this factual ...


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