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Hackworth v. Kansas City Veterans Administration Medical Center

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

November 26, 2014

JEFFERY D. HACKWORTH, Plaintiff,
v.
KANSAS CITY VETERANS ADMINISTRATION MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DOUGLAS HARPOOL, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 56). Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 23) should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The Court, after careful consideration, GRANTS Defendants' motion (Doc. 56). In light of Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court affords Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint within thirty (30) days, should he choose to do so, in order to address the deficiencies of his Amended Complaint.

BACKGROUND

On November 1, 2013, the Court granted Plaintiff Jeffery D. Hackworth leave to proceed with the present case in forma pauperis and Plaintiff filed his complaint. On April 23, 2014, the Court issued an order responding to numerous pre-service motions filed by Plaintiff. Within its order, the Court denied Plaintiff's request for a public defender, granted Plaintiff's request for service via United States marshal, granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, and dismissed Plaintiff's other motions without prejudice until Plaintiff obtained proper service upon Defendants. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint and subsequently obtained service upon Defendants in September of 2014. Prior to Defendants' answer, Plaintiff filed various other motions. In response to the amended complaint, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss.

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint attempts to state a claim against the following defendants: Kansas City Veterans Administration Medical Center ("KCVAMC"); Kent D. Hill, Director; Kevin Q. Inkley, Assistant Director; James E. Sanders, Chief of Staff; Michael C. Moore, PhD, Assistant Director; John/Jane Does 1-100 of KCVAMC in their official capacity and individual capacity; Department of the Treasury; Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Treasury; Neal Wolin, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury; Mark A. Patterson, Chief of Staff to Secretary of the Treasury; and Jane/Jane Does 1-100 of the Department of the Treasury, in their official capacity and individual capacity.

The Amended Complaint alleges that the above-named Defendants "unlawfully seized funds" from Plaintiff on two separate occasions "without due process." Pl.'s Am. Compl. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants KCVAMC and the Department of Treasury "conspired and violated constitutional law by unlawfully seizing funds" and that Defendant employees of KCVAMC and the Department of Treasury "failed to uphold their oath of office (5 USC [sic] § 3331) by refusing due process in court of law according to U.S. constitutional law." Pl.'s Am. Compl. 1-2. Plaintiff requests relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in an amount exceeding two billion dollars and "demands the removal of any credit report concerning this complaint." Pl.'s Am. Compl. 2.

ANALYSIS

Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and because Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In order to survive Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint must show that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction, that sovereign immunity does not bar his claim, and present sufficient factual matter to create a reasonable inference that Defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. The Court agrees with Defendants and dismisses Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Because jurisdiction is a threshold issue, the Court must first consider Defendant's argument that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998) ("The requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States' and is inflexible and without exception.'").

"Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit." F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994). Sovereign immunity is jurisdictional in nature and, as a prerequisite to suing the federal government or its agencies, a plaintiff must show that the government has consented to suit. See United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212 (1983) ("It is axiomatic that the United States may not be sued without its consent and that the existence of consent is a prerequisite for jurisdiction."). The government's waiver of sovereign immunity must be "unequivocally expressed" and "strictly construed, in terms of its scope, in favor of the sovereign." Lane v. Pena, 518 U.S. 187, 192 (1996).

Here, the Amended Complaint does not include a jurisdictional statement as required by Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Moreover, Plaintiff failed to allege when and how the federal government waived its sovereign immunity over Plaintiff's claims.[1] While Plaintiff cited 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which the Court liberally construes to assert a Bivens claim, [2] such actions do not apply to or waive the sovereign immunity of federal agencies or federal officials acting in their official capacity. Buford v. Runyon, 160 F.3d 1199, 1203 (8th Cir. 1998) (noting a suit against a government official in his official capacity is treated as a suit against the agency and noting Bivens actions "cannot be prosecuted against the United States and its agencies because of sovereign immunity."). Accordingly, Plaintiff failed to establish the Court's subject matter jurisdiction over the claims presented against various federal agencies and officials acting in their official capacity.[3] Therefore, claims as to those Defendants are dismissed.[4]

II. Failure to State a Claim

"To survive a motion to dismiss [under 12(b)(6)], a 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). A complaint is facially plausible where its factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The plaintiff must plead facts that show more than a mere speculation or possibility that the defendant acted unlawfully. Id .; Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While the Court accepts the complaint's factual allegations as true, it is not required to accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. While "pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, " the Court "will not ...


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