United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION, GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
James McBride filed a Complaint pro se seeking
damages for breach of fiduciary duty by Defendant Steven
Mnuchin, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
(“Secretary”), in his official
capacity. Plaintiff avers that he transferred a
title of property to the Secretary and is now entitled to
payments on the indenture. Defendant filed a Motion to
Dismiss for, respectively, lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and failure to state a claim on which relief can
be based. Having considered the parties' filings, this
Court concludes that it does not have subject matter
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim and that Plaintiff
has failed to state a viable claim for relief. Accordingly, this
Court will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
identifies himself as the agent for “ONE GLOBAL ESTATE
private business trust” and holder of the Holy Alliance
1213 title to the “divine estate.” Compl. at 2,
ECF No. 1. In his Complaint filed on January 11, 2019, Mr.
McBride avers that he began a fiduciary relationship with
Defendant by conveying legal title to “the land known
as America, and all territories thereof” to the Alien
Property Custodian. Id. He further asserts that proof
of the conveyance can be found in his Certificate of Birth
and Certificate of Live Birth. Id. at 4. Because of
the alleged property conveyance, Mr. McBride claims that
Defendant had “a fiduciary duty to hold all [conveyed]
property in an interest bearing account, to pay the net
earnings to the [b]eneficiaries and to provide a full
acquittal and discharge of all charges[.]” Id.
at 1. Now, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant is in breach of
his fiduciary duties, id., and must both pay
Plaintiff the “net income . . . [accrued] and collected
in respect of any . . . property held” and
“return the property[, ]” id. at 5. Mr.
McBride argues that this Court has jurisdiction over the case
under the Trading with the Enemy Act (“TWEA”), 50
U.S.C. §§ 4301 et seq. Id. at 2
(citing 50 U.S.C. § 4309(a)). As a remedy, Plaintiff
seeks an order directing Defendant to pay him the net
earnings of the United States, to return the property that
Plaintiff claims to have conveyed, and to discharge all of
Plaintiff's debts. See Id. at 12.
March 18, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for,
respectively, lack of subject matter jurisdiction under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and failure to state
a claim on which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Def.'s Mot.
Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 6. This Court issued a Fox/Neal Order
the next day, advising Plaintiff to respond to
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on or before April 18,
2019, and warning that a failure to respond or to move for an
extension of time by that date might lead the Court to treat
the motion as conceded. See Fox/Neal Order at 1, ECF
Plaintiff never formally responded to the Motion to Dismiss,
Plaintiff submitted multiple filings in the weeks after this
Court issued its Fox/Neal Order. Pl.'s Mot. for Order
(Mar. 19, 2019), ECF No. 8; Pl.'s Mot. for Order (Mar.
25, 2019), ECF No. 9 (“March 25 Motion”);
Pl.'s Mem. (Mar. 29, 2019), ECF No. 10; Pl.'s Mot.
for an Interim Trustee, ECF No. 11; Pl.'s Mot. for
Default, ECF No. 12; Pl.'s Aff., ECF No. 13; Pl.'s
Mem. (May 15, 2019), ECF No. 14. The Court considers
Plaintiff's filings after the Fox/Neal Order in
toto and refers to them as Plaintiff's opposition.
See Elghannam v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bds of
Pharmacy, 151 F.Supp.3d 57, 59 (D.D.C. 2015) (“A
pro se plaintiff's pleadings must be ‘considered
in toto' to determine whether they ‘set
out allegations sufficient to survive dismissal'”)
(quoting Brown v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc., 789
F.3d 146, 151 (D.C. Cir. 2015)); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do
justice.”). Mr. McBride's opposition contests
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. See March 25
Motion at 1 (“The March 18th filing by . . . [counsel
for Defendant Fred E. Haynes] is a fraud on the
[C]ourt.”). Plaintiff also calls for a default judgment
against Defendant. See Pl.'s Mot. for Default;
see also March 25 Motion at 1- 2 (noting
Defendant's failure to enter an appearance and urging
this Court to “seize control of the property” and
“terminate the trust”). Accordingly, this Court
will treat Plaintiff's opposition as a response in
function if not in form and will consider, respectively,
whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's Complaint and whether Plaintiff has stated a
viable claim for relief.
addressing the merits of a case, a court must confirm that it
has subject matter jurisdiction. See James Madison Ltd.
by Hecht v. Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1092 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law
presumes that a complaint lies outside their jurisdiction.
Bailey v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 696
F.Supp.2d 68, 70-71 (D.D.C. 2010). If a district court
determines at any time that it lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, then it must dismiss the complaint.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546
U.S. 500, 506 (2006). A party may also move to dismiss a
claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). See, e.g., Schmidt v.
United States Capitol Police Bd., 826 F.Supp.2d 59, 64
(D.D.C. 2011). When considering a motion challenging the
sufficiency of the pleadings to establish subject matter
jurisdiction, a court assumes the truth of allegations in the
complaint and construes them in the plaintiff's favor.
See Artis v. Greenspan, 158 F.3d 1301, 1305 (D.C.
Cir. 1998); Gallucci v. Chao, 374 F.Supp.2d 121, 123
(D.D.C. 2005). The non-moving party then has the burden of
establishing subject matter jurisdiction. See Harris v.
Sebelius, 932 F.Supp.2d 150, 151 (D.D.C. 2013),
aff'd, No. 13-5133, 2013 WL 6222952 (D.C. Cir.
Nov. 14, 2013).
to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A complaint has facial plausibility
when it 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). This
pleading standard does not demand detailed factual
allegations, but it does require more than bald assertions
and legal conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Courts must construe a complaint in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff, but “need not accept inferences . . .
if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in
the complaint.” Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns
Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Court will first address subject matter jurisdiction.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). Because it concludes,
for the following reasons, that Plaintiff's claims are
attenuated and insubstantial, the Court finds there is no
federal question jurisdiction over Mr. McBride's claims.
district court may dismiss a complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction if a complaint is “patently
insubstantial, [and presents] no federal question suitable
for decision.” Tooley v. Napolitano, 586 F.3d
1006, 1009 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Best v. Kelly,
39 F.3d 328, 330 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). This analysis differs
from a court's resolution of other Rule 12 motions:
declining to hear a claim because it is patently
insubstantial is “reserved for complaints resting on
truly fanciful factual allegations, ” whereas
“legally deficient complaints” are
reserved for 12(b)(6) dismissals. Vasaturo v.
Peterka, 203 F.Supp.3d 42, 44 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting
Best, 39 F.3d at 331 n.5). Dismissal of a claim on
grounds of patent insubstantiality is appropriate for claims
that are “flimsier than ‘doubtful or
questionable'” and instead are “essentially
fictitious.” Best, 39 F.3d at 330 (quoting
Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 536-37 (1973));
see also Curran v. Holder, 626 F.Supp.2d 30, 33
(D.D.C. 2009) (“When a plaintiff's allegations are
so attenuated and insubstantial as to be absolutely devoid of
merit[, ] [the claims] should be dismissed ...