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Bent v. Unnamed Capitol Police One

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 17, 2019

MICHAEL S. BENT, Plaintiff,
v.
UNNAMED CAPITOL POLICE ONE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Michael S. Bent recently petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a Writ of Certiorari in separate matters. He brought this lawsuit, pro se, to recover purported damages stemming from the method by which the Supreme Court encourages delivery of petitions to the Clerk's Office. Before the Court is Defendants' [16] Motion to Dismiss, which seeks dismissal of this case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and other grounds. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall GRANT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and this case shall be DISMISSED for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or, alternatively, for failure to state a claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Although Plaintiff's operative complaint is entitled “Second Amended Complaint, ” it is in fact the first Amended Complaint and shall be referred to as such. See 2d [sic] Am. Compl., ECF No. 14 (“Am. Compl.”).

         The Court shall rely on the allegations in the Amended Complaint for the few facts pertinent to this decision. See Id. ¶¶ 8-25. When Plaintiff attempted to hand-deliver a series of petitions directly to the Clerk of the Supreme Court, he was directed to give them instead to police officers outside. E.g., id. ¶ 8. He “complied under duress” with the officers' instructions to place the associated documents into designated plastic bags. E.g., id. ¶¶ 8, 9. Plaintiff deems this process to represent a “confiscation.” Id. ¶ 14. He fears that his petitions were tampered with at some point between the time that he deposited them and the time that the Supreme Court considered them. See, e.g., id. ¶ 18 (expressing concern that a certain petition's booklets, as reviewed by the Supreme Court, “are reasonably presumed to be substitutes carefully prepared to subvert [Plaintiff] Bent's petition”). Only if Plaintiff were allowed to deliver his petitions directly to the Clerk- which he reads the Supreme Court rules to require-could he rest assured that the Supreme Court reviewed the unaltered originals. See, e.g., id. ¶ 27 (arguing that Supreme Court rules require “litigants . . . to provide case documents to the Supreme Court Clerk who is thereafter accountable to assure case documents are filed and not removed from the Court building”).

         This suit seeks damages from the Chief of Police and from his officers who allegedly were involved in Plaintiff's delivery of his petitions. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff describes the Defendants as “Capitol Police Officer McCullough, Officer Giovanni, Officer N-8, Officer Brown and Chief of Police Jeffery Smith.” Id. ¶ 3. Defendants, in turn, understand themselves to consist of “Chief of Police Jeffrey Smith; Officer James McCullough; Officer Steven Gigante; Officer Tyler Brown; and possibly Officer Regis Garris III, ” all of whom are allegedly officers of the Supreme Court of the United States Police. Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 16, at 1 n.1. Plaintiff does not object to Defendants' correction that the officers at issue are Supreme Court police, rather than Capitol Police assigned to the Supreme Court. See Am. Compl. ¶ 3; Am. Certification, ECF No. 16-1, at 1 n.1; Pl.'s Opp'n at 7. With the exception of Chief of Police Smith, who is sued in his official capacity, all of the other officers are named in both their official and individual capacities. Am. Compl. ¶ 3.

         Plaintiff identifies two claims in his “Claims” section, where he alleges violations of a Fourth Amendment “right to be secure in his papers” and a Fifth Amendment due process right. Id. ¶¶ 4, 33-40. The jurisdictional portion of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint cites several additional putative grounds for a federal question, namely 40 U.S.C. § 6121 et seq.; the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2674; and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 392 (1971). Am. Compl. ¶ 4 & n.2; see also Id. ¶ 6 (alleging that damages can be awarded pursuant to the FTCA, 28 U.S.C. § 2674).

         Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's operative complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2), (4), (5), and (6). Briefing having concluded, their motion is ripe for decision.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

         A court must dismiss a case pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(1) when it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. In determining whether there is jurisdiction, “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.” Coal. for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “At the motion to dismiss stage, counseled complaints, as well as pro se complaints, are to be construed with sufficient liberality to afford all possible inferences favorable to the pleader on allegations of fact.” Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1106 (D.C. Cir. 2005). In spite of the favorable inferences that a plaintiff receives on a motion to dismiss, still that “[p]laintiff bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.” Am. Farm Bureau v. EPA, 121 F.Supp.2d 84, 90 (D.D.C. 2000). “Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), [a] plaintiff['s] factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance Bd., 503 F.Supp.2d 163, 170 (D.D.C. 2007) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain “‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the “grounds” of “entitle[ment] to relief, ” a plaintiff must furnish “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing, e.g., Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Instead, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 570; Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged- but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         III. ...


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