LORI PONCE V. U.S. GOVERNMENT, No. 13-36192 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 2, 2016.
FILED NOT FOR PUBLICATION MAY 10 2016 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS MOLLY C. DWYER, CLERK FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT LORI LEE PONCE, No. Plaintiff - Appellant, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS 13-36192 D.C. No. 3:11-cv-00172-AC v. MEMORANDUM* U.S. GOVERNMENT, Defendant - Appellee. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon John V. Acosta, Magistrate Judge, Presiding Argued and Submitted May 4, 2016 Portland, Oregon Before: TASHIMA, TALLMAN, and HURWITZ, Circuit Judges. Tori Lee Ponce appeals the district court’s dismissal of her third amended complaint and denial of leave to amend to assert a Bivens1 claim against unnamed employees of the Department of Labor (“the Doe Defendants”). The Doe Defendants allegedly initially denied, and then granted in part, Ponce’s claim for * This disposition is not appropriate for publication and is not precedent except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3. 1 Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (“FECA”), 5 U.S.C. § 8101 et seq. in violation of her constitutional rights. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm.2 1. Whether to recognize a Bivens claim is governed by a two-pronged inquiry. First “is the question whether any alternative, existing process for protecting the [constitutional] interest amounts to a convincing reason for the Judicial Branch to refrain from providing a new and freestanding remedy in damages.” Wilkie v. Robbins, 551 U.S. 537, 550 (2007). Second, even if no such process exists, “a Bivens remedy is a subject of judgment: ‘the federal courts must make the kind of remedial determination that is appropriate for a common-law tribunal, paying particular heed, however, to any special factors counselling hesitation before authorizing a new kind of federal litigation.’” Id. (quoting Bush v. Lucas, 462 U.S. 367, 378 (1983)). The district court relied solely on the first prong of the inquiry, concluding that “the comprehensive remedial scheme of [FECA] in the federal employment context prevents the recognition of a Bivens remedy.” 2. We agree. Ponce’s claim arises “out of an employment relationship that is governed by comprehensive procedural and substantive provisions giving 2 The district court dismissed Ponce’s third amended complaint on sovereign immunity grounds because it sought damages against the United States. On appeal, Ponce challenges only the court’s denial of leave to amend to assert a Bivens claim against the Doe Defendants. 2 meaningful remedies against the United States.” Bush, 462 U.S. at 368. A Bivens remedy is inappropriate because, through FECA, “Congress has provided what it considers adequate remedial mechanisms for constitutional violations that may occur in the course of its administration.” Schweiker v. Chilicky, 487 U.S. 412, 423 (1988). 3. The FECA statutory scheme is materially indistinguishable from the Social Security legislation reviewed in Schweiker. FECA provides for an initial determination by an agency of a claimant’s eligibility for benefits, followed by multiple levels of review, including de novo review and the ability to present new evidence. Compare 487 U.S. at 424 (detailing the Social Security process), with 20 C.F.R. § 10.600 et seq. (detailing FECA process). Moreover, the remedy Ponce seeks is virtually identical to the one sought in Schweiker: “consequential damages for hardships resulting from an allegedly unconstitutional denial of a statutory right.” 487 U.S. at 428. “In light of the comprehensive statutory schemes involved, the harm resulting from the alleged constitutional violation can in neither case be separated from the harm resulting from the denial of the statutory right.” Id. Nor does the possibility that the remedy in a Bivens action would be more favorable than those available under FECA justify the recognition of a Bivens claim. Schweiker, 487 U.S. at 425; Bush, 462 U.S. at 372. AFFIRMED. 3 See