United States District Court, District of Columbia
JOSE M. FONT, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT et al., Defendants.
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
appearing pro se, has sued the federal government,
Homewood Suites by Hilton, and Hilton's President and
Chief Executive Officer for equitable relief and monetary
damages. The complaint arises from actions taken by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”)
under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency
Assistance Act (“Stafford Act”). In August 2018,
the complaint against the private defendants was dismissed
under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 for
failure to state a claim, and the complaint against the
federal government was allowed to proceed. See Mem.
Op. and Order, ECF No. 5. Pending before the Court is the
government's Motion to Dismiss 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 can be granted, ECF No. 14. For the reasons
that follow, the Court finds that the claims for equitable
relief are moot and jurisdiction is lacking over the claim
for monetary damages. Accordingly, the government's
motion will be granted.
is one of thousands of individuals forced to evacuate Puerto
Rico after Hurricane Maria struck the island on September 20,
2017. See Santos v. Fed. Emergency Mgmt.
Agency, 327 F.Supp.3d 328, 335 (D. Mass. 2018)
(discussing “Hurricane Maria and its Aftermath”).
Under FEMA's Transitional Sheltering Assistance
(“TSA”) program, plaintiff was provided temporary
housing at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in the District of
Columbia. See Compl. at 4; Pl.'s Mot. in Aid
(Federal) Jurisdiction ¶ 2, ECF No. 3; see also
Santos, 327 F.Supp.3d at 331 n.1 (“In simple
terms, the TSA program provides direct funding to hotels and
motels, which serve as shelters for individuals and families
who are forced to evacuate their damaged or destroyed homes
due to a natural disaster.”).
alleges that in January 2018 while residing at Homewood
Suites, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and received
treatment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the
District. He was scheduled for surgery on July 12, 2018, and
needed a minimum of six weeks to recover. See Compl.
at 2, 4. Allegedly in January 2018, a “functionary of
FEMA” named “Mr. Ortega” told plaintiff
that he had “authority delegated by FEMA” and not
to “worry” because “FEMA extended
[plaintiff's] time at Homewood Suites . . . until
February 15, 2018 and will automatically [extend it] 6 more
months[.]” Compl. at 4 ¶ 6. Mr. Ortega also told
plaintiff that FEMA was aware of his economic situation and
was “willing to give [him] 8 months or more” of
temporary housing at Homewood Suites to allow him time to
find an apartment and “permanently stay in Washington
28, 2018, two days before the TSA program was to expire,
plaintiff filed this pro se action. The complaint
seeks monetary damages exceeding $5 million and
“emergency” injunctive and mandamus relief to
remain at Homewood Suites for at least six weeks to recover
from the aforementioned surgery. See Compl. at 2, 4.
In mid-September 2018, plaintiff moved to the Cambridge
Apartments in the District's northwest quadrant,
see Pl.'s Emer. Mot. at 3-4, ECF No. 7 (leasing
documents), which coincided with the termination of the TSA
program for Puerto Rican evacuees. See Santos, 327
F.Supp.3d at 345 (vacating temporary restraining order and
“ordering that the Defendants and their agents refrain
from terminating the program which provides the payment for
shelter for the Plaintiffs (including the class) until
midnight September 13, 2018”).
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. E.P.A., 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.”). It
is the plaintiff's burden to establish that the court has
subject matter jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992).
subject matter jurisdiction focuses on the Court's power
to hear a claim, the Court must give the plaintiff's
factual allegations closer scrutiny than would be required
for a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. See
Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft,
185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13-14 (D.D.C. 2001). Thus, the Court is not
limited to the allegations contained in the complaint.
See Wilderness Soc'y v. Griles, 824 F.2d 4, 16
n.10 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Instead, “where necessary, the
court may consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed
facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented
by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of
disputed facts.” Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of
Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (citing
Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir.
Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of
the federal courts to “Cases” and
“Controversies.” U.S. Const. art. 3, § 2.
The doctrines of standing, mootness, and ripeness are
“[t]hree inter-related” doctrines of
justiciability that determine the “constitutional
boundaries” of a court's jurisdiction. Jeong
Seon Han v. Lynch, 223 F.Supp.3d 95, 102 (D.D.C. 2016)
(quoting Worth v. Jackson, 451 F.3d 854, 855, 857
(D.C. Cir. 2006)). The D.C. Circuit has explained that
“‘[f]ederal courts lack jurisdiction to decide
moot cases because their constitutional authority extends
only to actual cases or controversies.'” Larsen
v. U.S. Navy, 525 F.3d 1, 4 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting
Iron Arrow Honor Soc'y v. Heckler, 464 U.S. 67,
70 (1983)). A case becomes “‘moot when the issues
presented are no longer live or the parties lack a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome.'” Id.
at 3 (quoting County of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440
U.S. 625, 631 (1979)); see accord Del Monte Fresh Produce
Co. v. United States, 570 F.3d 316, 321 (D.C. Cir. 2009)
(explaining that a “case is moot when the challenged
conduct ceases such that there is no reasonable expectation
that the wrong will be repeated in circumstances where it
becomes impossible for the court to grant any effectual
relief whatever to the prevailing party”) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted)).
claims for injunctive and mandamus relief became moot in
September 2018 when the TSA program for Puerto Rican evacuees
expired and plaintiff moved to the ...