United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
many Americans, pro se plaintiff Joseph Johnson,
Jr., owes thousands of dollars in student loans. And he has
turned to the courts for relief . . . a lot. This is his
twelfth lawsuit arising out of his loans. Because Johnson
already filed-and lost-at least one other federal case
raising the same claims he brings here, the Court will
dismiss this latest suit under the doctrine of res
enrolled at the University of Maryland University College in
fall 1993. Johnson v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 580
F.Supp.2d 154, 155 (D.D.C. 2008), aff'd without
op., No. 08-5468 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 10, 2009). From 1993 to
1996, he obtained several federally guaranteed loans.
Id. Johnson consolidated those loans in April 2004
under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.
Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 5. At the time of consolidation,
Johnson had $24, 447.43 in outstanding student loan debt.
Id. By January 2012, despite his alleged
efforts to repay the loans, Compl. ¶¶ 13-26,
Johnson's debt had risen to $35, 556.58, id.
February 2012, Johnson sent the Department of Education a
check for $12, 390.00. Id. ¶ 28. Johnson
alleges that this payment should have reduced his
consolidated principal amount from $24, 447.33 to $12,
057.33, id.; instead, billing records that month
reflected that the Department applied the check to reduce the
$35, 556.58 to $23, 179.32, id. ¶ 29. Johnson
alleges that the Department accepted his $12, 390 payment but
failed to credit it to reduce his overall debt. Id.
¶¶ 30. He contends that although he has never
defaulted on his loans, the Department continues to falsely
report to credit agencies that he failed to make payments and
is now delinquent. Compl. ¶¶ 31-33.
mentioned above, Johnson has brought numerous lawsuits
against a variety of defendants arising out of these loans.
This is the twelfth. Relevant to the government's motion
to dismiss under the res judicata doctrine is
Johnson's eleventh lawsuit.
2015, Johnson sued the Department of Education in federal
district court in Maryland for breach of conditional
settlement, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and
violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Debt
Collection Improvement Act of 1996, and the Higher Education
Act of 1965. Johnson v. Duncan, No. GJH-15-1820,
2017 WL 462049, at *1 (D. Md. Feb. 1, 2017). He claimed that
the Department was misreporting the amount he owed on his
student loans. Id. at *2. He also contended that by
cashing his $12, 390 check, the Department agreed to accept a
partial payment to settle his entire outstanding debt.
Maryland district court denied Johnson's motion for
partial summary judgment and granted the Department of
Education's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The
court concluded that Johnson was collaterally estopped from
relitigating the issue of whether his $12, 390 check was a
valid settlement, which had been determined in two prior
cases in which Johnson attempted to enforce the alleged
settlement against other defendants. Id. at *5-6.
Because all of Johnson's claims were premised on that
issue, the court dismissed the case with prejudice.
October 2017, Johnson filed suit in this Court. He brings
claims against the United States for conversion (count 1),
money had and received (count 2), violation of the Fair
Credit Reporting Act (count 3), violation of consumer
protection and debt collection laws (count 4), negligence (count
5), and declaratory judgment (count 6). He says that counts
1, 2, 4, and 5 are brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”). Id. at 8.
the Maryland case, his claims all relate to how the
Department of Education handled his check for $12, 390.
Unlike in that case, however, Johnson does not allege here
that his partial payment should have settled his entire
student debt; rather, he alleges that the Department has
failed to properly credit his account by applying the funds
from his check to a principal balance that was too high.
government filed a motion to dismiss in February 2019.
See MTD, ECF No. 18. After Johnson moved to strike
that motion as filed by the wrong party (the government filed
the motion on behalf of the Department of Education rather
than the United States, the named defendant), the government
filed a supplemental motion to dismiss. See Suppl.
MTD, ECF No. 26. The Court denied Johnson's motion to
strike and instructed him to respond to the government's
two motions, which it would construe as a “consolidated
motion to dismiss.” See March 11, 2019 Minute
Order. The United States has moved to dismiss on three
grounds: (1) in the original motion to dismiss, the
government argues that the Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over Johnson's statutory claims; (2) in the
alternative, the government argues that the Court should
dismiss the entire complaint as precluded under the doctrine
of res judicata; and (3) in its supplemental motion
to dismiss, the government incorporates the previous two
bases and also argues that counts 1 and 2 are time barred.
government has also filed a counterclaim to recover the
outstanding balance of Johnson's student debt, which it
says totaled $33, 314.91 as of February 8, 2019. See
Counterclaim ¶ 21. Johnson answered the counterclaim and
asserted thirty-six affirmative defenses. See
Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant's Answer, ECF No. 24.
Standard of Review
relevant here, the United States moves to dismiss
Johnson's complaint as barred under the doctrine of
res judicata. “When res judicata bars
a claim, it is subject to dismissal under [Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure] 12(b)(6).” Alford v. Providence
Hosp., 60 F.Supp.3d 118, 123 (D.D.C. 2014). In analyzing
a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must
determine whether the complaint “contain[s] sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). The Court takes all of the factual allegations in
the complaint as true and construes those facts
“liberally in the plaintiff's favor with the
benefit of all reasonable inferences derived from the facts
alleged.” Stewart v. Nat'l Educ.
Ass'n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Finally,