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Bundy v. Sessions

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 10, 2019

RYAN BUNDY, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TREVOR N. MCFADDEN, U.S.D.J.

         Ryan Bundy and his family participated in an armed confrontation with federal agents in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014. Federal authorities later arrested and indicted Mr. Bundy based on his involvement in the standoff. A district judge eventually declared a mistrial in that case.

         Now, he is suing five high-ranking federal officials for conduct relating to the armed confrontation and ensuing criminal proceeding. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted, and the Complaint will be dismissed.

         I.

         As it must at this stage, the Court sets out the facts in the light most favorable to Mr. Bundy. Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). According to the Complaint, state and federal officers “invaded” the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, “under the guise of collecting grazing fees, an alleged and unverified debt.” Compl., ECF No. 1 at 4. Carrying a “side-arm, ” Mr. Bundy participated in the ensuing standoff between these officers and his “supporters.” Id. According to the Complaint, Mr. Bundy and his confederates did not harm or threaten any state or federal officers. Id.

         Nonetheless, a federal grand jury later indicted Mr. Bundy on charges related to the standoff. Id. The district court eventually declared a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct. Id. at 13.[1]

         Mr. Bundy now sues former Attorneys General Jefferson Sessions, Eric Holder, and Loretta Lynch; former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey; and former Director of the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze (collectively “Senior Officials”), for their alleged parts in the standoff and ensuing prosecution. Mr. Bundy brings six claims: (1) unconstitutional search and seizure claim against Directors Comey and Kornze under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971); (2) unconstitutional retaliation claim against the Senior Officials under Bivens; (3) violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) claim against the Senior Officials; (4) unconstitutional use of force claim against Directors Comey and Kornze under 28 U.S.C. § 1983; (5) unconstitutional retaliation claim against the Senior Officials under Section 1983; and (6) unconstitutional malicious prosecution claim against the Senior Officials under Section 1983. See generally Compl. at 13-20.

         II.

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Plausibility requires that a complaint raise “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pleading facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545-46. Thus, a court does not accept the truth of legal conclusions or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Courts must construe a complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded allegations. See In re United Mine Workers of Am. Emp. Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994).

         III.

         A.

         Mr. Bundy's many claims fail for many reasons. The Senior Officials first argue that Counts One and Four-based on conduct during the standoff-are barred by the statute of limitations. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 10 at 5. The Court agrees.

         For both Section 1983 and Bivens actions, federal courts look to local law to determine the applicable statute of limitations. See Jones v. Kirchner, 835 F.3d 74, 80 (D.C. Cir. 2016). When plaintiffs bring these actions in this District, federal courts apply D.C.'s three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions. See Id. (applying D.C. statute of limitations in a Section 1983 action brought here); Doe v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 753 F.2d 1092, 1114 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (applying D.C. statute of limitations in a Bivens action brought here).

         The Senior Officials argue that Mr. Bundy had three years from April 2014 to bring his claims arising out of the alleged standoff. Defs.' Mem. at 8. But he did not file his Complaint until October 31, 2018. See Compl. In his one-paragraph response, Mr. Bundy does not challenge the applicability of the three-year statute of limitations. See Pl.'s Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss (“Pl.'s Mem.”) at 6-7. Rather, he argues that the limitations period should be tolled because he was incarcerated from about January 2016 until January 2018. Pl.'s Mem. at 6.

         This issue is governed by D.C. Code § 12-302(a)(3), which provides that when a person is imprisoned “at the time the right of action accrues, ” then he “may bring action within the time limit after the disability is removed.” But to toll the limitations period, a plaintiff's action must accrue during his imprisonment. D.C. Code § 12-302(a)(3). Mr. Bundy does not claim that he was imprisoned when his unlawful search and seizure and excessive force claims accrued.[2] So D.C. Code § 12-302(a)(3) does not save these claims.

         Next, Mr. Bundy argues that the Court should apply the doctrine of equitable tolling. Pl.'s Mem. at 6. But generally, “District of Columbia law does not recognize an equitable tolling exception to the statute of limitations.” Johnson v. Marcheta Inv'rs Ltd. P'ship, 711 A.2d 109, 112 (D.C. 1998). As the D.C. Court of Appeals has explained, “[r]ejection of the application of equitable tolling on a case-by-case basis . . . rests on the belief that where the legislature has provided no savings statute, courts would exceed their prescribed role by providing a remedy where the legislature ...


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