United States District Court, District of Columbia
L. FRIEDRICH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff Jacksonville Urban League (JUL) brings this action
against the defendant, Alex M. Azar II, the Secretary of the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in both his
official and individual capacities. JUL alleges that HHS
violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments when it suspended
JUL's Head Start and Early Head Start funding and
subsequently searched and seized its office, files, and
computers. Before the Court are the United States' and
defendant Azar's motions to dismiss and JUL's motion
for leave to file an amended complaint. For the following
reasons, the Court will grant the motions to dismiss and deny
the motion for leave to file an amended complaint.
a community-based, non-profit agency that received funds from
HHS to operate Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
Complaint ¶ 2, Dkt. 1 (Compl.). On April 5, 2013, the
Administration of Children and Families (ACF), a division of
HHS, suspended JUL's funding based on concerns for the
health and safety of children under JUL's care.
See Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
Individual-Capacity Claims, Dkt. 14 (Def.'s Indiv. Mtn.).
review of HHS' decision began almost immediately. In June
of 2013, ACF permitted JUL to show cause why the suspension
should be rescinded. Id. at 2. ACF determined that
JUL failed to provide satisfactory evidence to restore
funding, so the suspension continued. Id. Next, JUL
appealed the suspension to the HHS Departmental Appeals
Board. A hearing took place in January of 2014, and JUL
argued that its suspension was improper because ACF had not
shown that an “emergency” justified the
suspension. Id. at 2. In March of 2014, the Appeals
Board upheld the suspension. Id. at 2-3. JUL then
petitioned a federal court for review of the Appeals
Board's decision. Id. at 3. The District Court
for the District of Columbia dismissed the case without
prejudice for failure to prosecute under Local Civil Rule
of 2018, JUL brought another challenge in federal court.
There, for the first time, JUL asserted claims against the
Secretary of HHS for alleged constitutional violations under
Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Id. That court
dismissed the case without prejudice for failure to serve the
United States in accordance with Rule 4(i)(2) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. Id.
October 1, 2018, JUL filed this action which is virtually
identical to its June 2018 complaint. JUL now sues the
Secretary of HHS in his “official capacity, ” and
pursuant to Bivens, raises individual-capacity
claims for money damages based on alleged Fourth and Fifth
Amendment violations. Compl. ¶¶ 25-39. The
complaint alleges that HHS violated (1) the Fourth Amendment
by unlawfully searching and seizing JUL's funding,
office, files, and computers, id. ¶¶
25-31, and (2) the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment
by suspending JUL's funding without giving JUL notice or
an opportunity to be heard, id. ¶¶ 32-39
Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
party may move to dismiss an action or claim when the court
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A
motion for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) “presents a
threshold challenge to the court's jurisdiction.”
Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir.
1987). Federal district courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction, and it is “presumed that a cause lies
outside this limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Thus,
“the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that
the court has jurisdiction by a preponderance of the
evidence.” Seawright v. Postmaster General of
U.S.P.S., No. 18-CV-460, 2018 WL 6173445, at *1 (D.D.C.
2018) (citing Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S.
555, 561 (1992)).
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court must treat the
plaintiff's factual allegations as true and afford the
plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived
from the facts alleged.” Jeong Seon Han v.
Lynch, 223 F.Supp.3d 95, 103 (D.D.C. 2016) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). Those factual
allegations, however, receive “closer scrutiny”
than they would if the court were considering a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion for failure to state a claim. Id. Also,
unlike in the Rule 12(b)(6) context, a court may consider
documents outside the pleadings to evaluate whether it has
jurisdiction, but a court “must still accept all of the
factual allegations in the complaint as true.” See
Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253
(D.C. Cir. 2005) (internal quotations marks and citations
omitted). If at any point the court determines that it lacks
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the claim or action,
whether on the defendant's motion or sua sponte.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(h)(3).
Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
defendant may move to dismiss an action when the court lacks
personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). “On such
a motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of
‘establishing a factual basis for the exercise of
personal jurisdiction' over each defendant.”
Triple Up Ltd. v. Youku Tudou Inc., 235 F.Supp.3d
15, 20 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting Crane v. N.Y. Zoological
Soc., 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990)). To meet this
burden, a plaintiff cannot rely on conclusory allegations,
id., but rather must allege specific facts
connecting the defendant with the forum, see Shibeshi v.
United States, 932 F.Supp.2d 1, 2 (D.D.C. 2013)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Second
Amendment Foundation v. U.S. Conference of Mayors, 274
F.3d 521, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2001)). “Ultimately, the Court
must satisfy itself that it has jurisdiction to hear the
suit.” Triple Up Ltd., 235 F.Supp.3d at 20-21
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).