United States District Court, District of Columbia
AHMED ALI MUTHANA, individually, and as next friend of Hoda Muthana and Minor John Doe, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL POMPEO, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Department of State, et al., Defendants.
B. WALTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Ahmed Ali Muthana, brings this civil action
individually and as the next friend of his daughter, Hoda
Muthana, and minor grandson, John Doe, against the
defendants, Michael Pompeo, in his official capacity as the
Secretary of the United States Department of State
(“the “State Department”); Donald J. Trump,
in his official capacity as the President of the United
States; and William Barr, in his official capacity as the
Attorney General of the United States (collectively, the
“defendants”), seeking expedited declaratory,
injunctive, and mandamus relief, see Expedited
Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, Injunctive Relief and
Petition for Writ of Mandamus (“Compl.” or the
“Complaint”) ¶ 1, in his attempt to have the
Court order that his daughter and grandson be permitted to
enter the United States and that he be permitted to provide
financial support to them while they are in Syria.
denying the plaintiff's first request for expedited
consideration of the relief requested by the plaintiff on
March 11, 2019, see Order at 4 (Mar. 11, 2019), ECF
No. 18, on November 14, 2019, the Court granted the
Plaintiff's Renewed Motion for Expedited Ruling
Mot.” or the “renewed motion for expedited
consideration”) and granted in part and denied in part
the defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative,
for Partial Summary Judgment (“Defs.' Mot.”
or the “motion to dismiss”),  see
Order at 1-2 (Nov. 15, 2019), ECF No. 30. This Memorandum
Opinion provides the legal basis for the Court's November
15, 2019 Order.
to the plaintiff, “[p]rior to his daughter's birth,
[the plaintiff] worked as a diplomat for the United
Nations.” Compl. ¶ 18. However, “[o]n June
2, 1994, the Yemeni Ambassador Al-Aashtal required [the
plaintiff] to surrender his diplomatic identity card.”
Id. Thereafter, his daughter, Hoda Muthana, was born
in New Jersey on XXXXX1994. See
id. ¶ 20. The plaintiff initially applied for a
United States passport for his daughter in 2004. See
Id. ¶ 21. The State Department “initially
questioned whether Ms. Muthana was eligible for a [United
States] passport, based on [its] records showing her
father's diplomatic status remained in effect until
February 6, 1995, ” but after the plaintiff provided
the State Department with a letter “confirm[ing] that
the diplomatic status he had due to his employment at the
[United Nations] was terminated prior to the time of Ms.
Muthana's birth, ” Ms. Muthana's passport
application was granted. Id.
November 2014, Ms. Muthana withdrew from the university she
was attending in Alabama and traveled to Syria. See
id. ¶ 22. “After arriving in Syria, Ms.
Muthana made her way into [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria
(‘ISIS')]-controlled territory.” Id.
¶ 23. She married twice and had a son, John Doe, by her
second husband. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. “On
January 15, 2016, the United States issued a letter addressed
to Ms. Muthana at her parents' residence, purporting to
revoke her passport under 22 C.F.R. [§] 51.7 and 51.66[,
assert[ing] for the first time that because the [United
States] Permanent Mission to the United Nations [the
(“United States Mission”)], Host Country Affairs
Section, had not been officially notified of [the
plaintiff's] termination until February 6, 1995, [Ms.
Muthana] was not “within the jurisdiction of the United
States” at the time of her birth, and therefore [is]
not a United States citizen pursuant to the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution.
Id. ¶ 25.
December 2018, “Ms. Muthana fled ISIS-controlled
territory, ” id. ¶ 30, and
“subsequently surrendered to Kurdish forces, who
transferred her to Camp al-Hawl in northeast Syria, ”
id. ¶ 31. On January 15, 2019, the
plaintiff's counsel wrote a letter to the United States
Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama,
“communicating [Ms. Muthana's] desire to return [to
the United States] as well as her willingness to surrender to
United States authorities for any contemplated
charges.” Id. ¶ 33.
On February 20, 2019, the . . . State Department declared on
its website that “Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a [United
States] citizen and will not be admitted into the United
States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid [United
States] passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to
travel to the United States.”
Id. ¶ 35. That same day, President Trump
“tweeted that ‘I have instructed Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda
Muthana back into the Country!'” Id.
¶ 36. Ms. Muthana and her son are “currently
detained in Syria by Kurdish forces at Camp Roj, after being
transferred from Camp al-Hol (also spelled al-Hawl).”
Pl.'s Mot. at 2.
February 21, 2019, the plaintiff instituted this civil action
against the defendants, seeking expedited consideration
“because of the precarious position of [the]
[p]laintiff['s] [ ] daughter and grandson at Camp al-Hawl
in Syria, under the authority of Kurdish forces” and
the President's “intent to withdraw [United States]
forces from the Syrian conflict.” Compl. ¶ 15. On
March 4, 2019, the Court denied the plaintiff's first
request for expedited relief. See Order at 4 (Mar.
11, 2019), ECF No. 18. Thereafter, on April 26, 2019, the
defendants filed their motion to dismiss. See
Defs.' Mot. at 1. On November 1, 2019, the plaintiff
filed his renewed motion for expedited consideration,
“re-urg[ing] the need for expedited relief in this
matter, based on updated circumstances and newly discovered
facts[, ]” Pl.'s Mot. at 1, and the Court
subsequently scheduled a hearing on the defendants'
motion to dismiss, see Min. Order (Nov. 5, 2019). At
the hearing on November 14, 2019, the Court granted the
plaintiff's renewed motion for expedited consideration
and granted in part and denied in part the defendants'
motion to dismiss. See Order at 1 (Nov. 15, 2019),
ECF No. 30. These motions are the subject of this Memorandum
Motion for Expedited Consideration
restraining orders and preliminary injunctions are
“extraordinary remed[ies] that should be granted only
when the party seeking the relief, by a clear showing,
carries the burden of persuasion.” Chaplaincy of
Full Gospel Churches v. Eng., 454 F.3d 290, 297 (D.C.
Cir. 2006) (quoting Cobell v. Norton, 391 F.3d 251,
258 (D.C. Cir. 2004)). In determining whether to issue a
temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction,
see Hall v. Johnson, 599 F.Supp.2d 1, 3 n.2 (D.D.C.
2009) (noting that the same standard applies to both), a
plaintiff must establish “[(1)] that he is likely to
succeed on the merits, [(2)] that he is likely to suffer
irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, [(3)]
that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and [(4)]
that an injunction is in the public interest, [, ]”
Sherley v. Sebelius, 644 F.3d 388, 392 (D.C. Cir.
2011) (quoting Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council,
Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008)).
Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss
[district] courts are courts of limited jurisdiction[,
]” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am.,
511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994), and “[a] motion for dismissal
under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 12(b)(1)
‘presents a threshold challenge to the [C]ourt's
jurisdiction[, ]'” Morrow v. United
States, 723 F.Supp.2d 71, 75 (D.D.C. 2010) (Walton, J.)
(quoting Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C.
Cir. 1987)). Thus, the Court is obligated to dismiss a claim
if it “lack[s] [ ] subject-matter
jurisdiction[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Because
“[i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies outside [the
Court's] limited jurisdiction, ” Kokkonen,
511 U.S. at 377, the plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the
Court has subject-matter jurisdiction, see Lujan v. Defs.
of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992).
deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction, the Court “need not limit itself to the
allegations of the complaint.” Grand Lodge of the
Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9,
14 (D.D.C. 2001). Rather, the “[C]ourt may consider
such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate
to resolve the question [of] whether it has jurisdiction to
hear the case.” Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections
& Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000);
see Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. Food & Drug
Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
Additionally, the Court must “assume the truth of all
material factual allegations in the complaint and
‘construe the complaint liberally, granting [the]
plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived
from the facts alleged.'” Am. Nat'l Ins.
Co. v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 642 F.3d 1137, 1139
(D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394
F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005)). However, “the
[p]laintiff'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.” Grand Lodge, 185 F.Supp.2d at 13-14
(alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, to survive a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for “failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted[, ]”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the “complaint must contain
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)). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see Kowal v. MCI
Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)
(noting that the plaintiff is entitled to “the benefit
of all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged”). Although the Court must accept the facts
pleaded as true, legal allegations devoid of factual support
are not entitled to this presumption. See Kowal, 16
F.3d at 1276. Along with the allegations made within the four
corners of the complaint, the Court may also consider
“any documents either attached to or incorporated in
the complaint and matters of which [it] may take judicial
notice.” Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v.
St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624
(D.C. Cir. 1997).
Rule 56 Motion for Summary Judgment
Court must “grant summary judgment if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When ruling on a Rule 56 motion for
summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Holcomb
v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 150 (2000)). The Court must therefore draw “all
justifiable inferences” in the non-moving party's
favor and accept the non-moving party's evidence as true.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). The non-moving party, however, cannot rely on
“mere allegations or denials[.]” Burke v.
Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus,
“[c]onclusory allegations unsupported by factual data
will not create a triable issue of fact.” Pub.
Citizen Health Research Grp. v. Food & Drug Admin.,
185 F.3d 898, 908 (D.C Cir. 1999) (Garland, J., concurring)
(alteration in original) (quoting Exxon Corp. v. Fed.
Trade Comm'n, 663 F.2d 120, 126-27 (D.C. Cir.
1980)). If the Court concludes that “the non[-]moving
party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential
element of [its] case with respect to which [it] has the
burden of proof[, ]” then the moving party is entitled
to summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Court will first address the plaintiff's motion for
expedited consideration and will then address the
defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for
The Plaintiff's Renewed Motion for Expedited
plaintiff seeks “expedited relief in this matter, based
on updated circumstances and newly discovered facts[.]”
Pl.'s Mot. at 1. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that
“[t]he President of the United States most recently
announced the withdrawal of [United States] troops from the
area” where Ms. Muthana and her son are currently
detained, id. ¶ 5, and argues that “the
failure of the United States to urgently facilitate the
return of Ms. Muthana and her son will cause immediate and
irreparable harm by jeopardizing their ability in the future
to return to the United States[, ]” id. ¶
6. The plaintiff further argues ...