WATKINS v. USA, No. 1:2014cv00639 - Document 9 (Fed. Cl. 2015)

Court Description: UNREPORTED OPINION and ORDER granting 4 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis; granting 6 Motion to Dismiss - Rule 12(b)(1). The Clerk is directed to enter judgment. No costs. Signed by Judge Charles F. Lettow. (dls) Copy to parties.
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WATKINS v. USA Doc. 9 ORIG!$\IAI llntlse @nfteU $rtafts @ourt of fr[ersl @lsfms No. 14-639C (Filed: January 12, 2015) (NOT TO BE PUBLISHED) FILED JAN * * * t' * * * * *,1. * * * * * * * * * *'1. * *,t * *,t'* :i :1. ** :* | 2 20t5 * U.S. COURT OF FEDERAL CTAIMS onxNts wATKrNs, Plaintiff, UNITED STATES, Defendant. {, * :t *,t :+,i *** + * * * +,t | +,1 * * :} 1.'l * * * * * * * * * + Dennis Watkins, pro se, Elmira, New York. Robert C. Bigler, Trial Attomey, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for defendant. With him on the briefs were Joyce R. Branda, Acting Assistant Attomey General, Civil Division, Robert E. Kirschman, Jr., Director, and Kirk T. Manhardt, Assistant Director, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. OPINION AND ORDER LETTOW, Judge. Plaintifi Dennis Watkins, alleges wrongful imprisonmenl by the State of New York ("New York"). See Compl. at l, 3.' Pending before the court is the govemment's motion to 'ln his complaint, Mr. Watkins named six additional plaintiffs, viz.,Taiwan Lomack, Jamal Mungro, Argenis Collabo, Denver A. McDowell, Jason Ramos, and Caleb Springer. See Compl. at 3. Mr. Watkins claims that he has authorization from these individuals to represent them in this action. Compl. at 4. Nonetheless, Mr. Watkins is not permitted to represent the other named persons. Because Mr. Watkins is not an aftomey, he may only represent himself or members of his immediate family. See Rule 83.1(aX3) of the Rules of the Court of Federal Claims ("RCFC") ("An individual who is not an attomey may represent oneself or a member of one's immediate family, but may not represent a corporation, an entity, or any other person in any proceeding before this court."). Therefore, the six named individuals that Mr. Watkins identifies are not Darties to this action. Dockets.Justia.com dismiss for lack of subject matter judsdiction pursuant to RCFC 12(bX1). See Dei's Mot. to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction ("Def.'s Mot.") at l, ECF No. 6. Also pending before the court is Mr. Watkins's motion to schedule a preliminary hearing. See Pl.'s Mot. for Prelim. Hr'g ("P1.'s Mot."), ECF No. 8. BACKGROUND Mr. Watkins is cunently serving a five-year sentence at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York. See Pl.'s Mot. at 1. He alleges that "New York State court officers" posed as government officials, and "various courts ofNew York State" used "forceful actions to establish personal, territorial, and subject matter jurisdiction" by compelling him and the other persons named in the complaint to "sign [their] names [and] state [their] names and addresses against [their] will." Compl. at 1,2. He avers that the actions against him and the other named individuals are commercial rather than criminal in nature, and maintains that the signatures and statements of the individuals were extracted "under duress, threats, [and] coercion." Compl. at 2. In terms of relief, Mr. Watkins demands the release of himself and the other six named individuals and $630 million dollars for their "time, trouble, [and] m-ental anguish," including any indirect injury to the individuals' family members. Compl. at 3.' STANDARDS FOR DECISION The Tucker Act grants this court 'Jurisdiction to renderjudgment upon any claim against the United States founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act ofCongress or any regulation ofan executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in cases not sounding in tort." 28 U.S.C. S 1a91(a)(l). The Act waives sovereign immunity and allows a claimant to sue the United States for monetary damages. United States v. Milchell,463 U.S. 206,212 (1983). However, the Act itself does not provide a substantive right to monetary relief against the United States. United States v. Testan, 424 U.5.392,398 (1976); see also Martinez v. United States,333 F.3d 1295,1302-03 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (en banc). "A substantive right must be found in some other source of law." Mitchell,463 U.S. at 216. To fulfill the juridical requirements of the Tucker Act, the plaintiff must establish an independent right to monetary damages by identifying a substantive source of law that mandates payment from the United States for the injury suffered. Testan, 424 U.S. at 400; see also Ferreiro v. United States,501 F.3d 1349,l35l-52 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (quoting Fisher v. United States,402 F.3d 1167,lI72 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc in relevant part)). Before proceeding to the merits, the "court must satisfy itselfthat it has jurisdiction to hear and decide a case." Hardie v. UnitedStates,36TF.3d 1288,1290 (Fed. Cir.2004) (quoting PIN/NIP, Inc. v. Platte Chem. Co.,304 F.3d 1235,1241 (Fed. Cir. 2002)) (intemal quotation marks omitted). When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(bX1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court will "normally consider the facts alleged in the complaint to be true and correct." Reynolds v. Army & Air Force Exch. Serv.,846F.2d746,747 (Fed. Cir. 1988) 'Altematively, Mr. Watkins requests S I ,000,000 for each year of his imprisonment, totaling $2,500,000 as of December 19,2014. See Pl.'s Mot. at l. (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes,4l6 U.S. 232,236 (1974)). The plaintiff bears the burden of "alleg[ing] in his pleading the facts essential to show [subject matter] j lurisdiction," McNutt v. Ceneral Motors Acceptance Corp. oflnd.,298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); see also Reynolds,846 F.2d at748, and, when challenged, those jurisdictional facts must be proved by a preponderance ofthe evidence, Thomson v. Gaskill,315 U.S. 442,446 (1942);Taylor v. United States,303 F.3d 1357,1359 (Fed. Cir. 2002); Record Steel & Constr., Inc. United States, 62 Fed. Cl. 508, 513 (z}oq.3 ANALYSIS As a preliminary matter, Mr. Watkins may not bring claims against New York or New York State olficials before this court. This court does not have jurisdiction to hear claims against individuals or state governments. The "only proper defendant for any matter before this court is the United States, not its officers, nor any other individual." Stephenson v. United States,58 Fed. Cl. 186, 190 (2003) (emphasis in original) (citing United States v. Sherwood,3l2 U.S. 584, s88 (1e41)). Mr. Watkins styles his complaint as a "Brand New and Revolutionary Idealism and Class Action Lawsuit." Compl. at 3. He does not premise this court's jurisdiction on any particular statutory provision; rather, he raises what appears to be a false-imprisonment tort claim as a basis lbr jurisdiction, claiming that he and the other six individuals "are illegally being held in these credit houses, investment houses, [also known as] [p]risons" because they were "tricked" and forced to sign documents and issue statements without a "'meeting of the minds"'or mutual assent and without a proper offer and acceptance. Compl. at 2, 6. As the govemment correctly notes in its motion, the Tucker Act limits this court's jurisdiction to "cases nol sounding in tort." Def.'s Mot. at 5 (quoting Shearin v. United Srates,992F.2d 1195, 1197 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (emphasis in original) (in tum quoting 28 U.S.C. g 1a91(aXl))). This court has no juridical power to decide tort claims, or to "review and overtum convictions[,] or to review in detail the facts surrounding a conviction or imprisonment." Zakiya v. United States,79 Fed. CI.231,23435 (2007), aff'd,277 Fed. Appx. 985 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (citing Humphrey v. United States,52Fed. Cl. 593, 596 (2002); Lott v. United States,l l Cl. Ct. 852, 853 (1987). Moreover, Mr. Watkins fails to identify an applicable money-mandating statute or allege the existence of a contract between him and the United States that would provide a basis for the court's jurisdiction. See generally 28 U.S.C. g 1a9l(a)(1). Mr. Watkins in his complaint expressly denies the existence ofan enforceable contract, noting that he never "consented into a contract with any municipal agencies or legislative agencies." Compl. at 2. Moreover, in commenting on thejurisdiction of the New York State oourts, he denigrates the need for subj ect matter jurisdiction, noting that "subject matter jurisdiction . . . is [n]o jurisdiction [a]t all." rThe cou( generally holds the pleadin gs of pro se plaintiffs to "'less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."' Estelle v. Gamble,42g U.S. 97,106 (1976) (quoting Haines v. Kerner,404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam)). "This latitude, however, does not relieve apro se plaintiff from meeting jurisdictional requirements." Bernard v. United States,59 Fed. Cl. 497, 499 (2004), aff'd,98 Fed. Appx. 860 (Fed. Cir.2004); see also Henke v. United States,60 F.3d 795,799 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Compl. at 2. Accordingly, Mr. Watkins has failed to meet his burden of establishing the court's jurisdiction over his claims. CONCLUSION For the reasons stated, the govemment's motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and Mr. Watkins's complaint is dismissed pursuant to RCFC l2(bxl) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Mr. Watkins's motion to schedule a preliminary hearing is DENIED in light of the jurisdictional defects in his complaint. The clerk shall enter judgment in accord with this disposition.' No costs. It is so ORDERED. Judge aMr. Watkins's application for leave to proceed informa pauperis is GRANTED. In his application, Mr. Watkins avers that he has no funds in a trust fund account with the Department ofConections. SeePl.'sAppl. to Proceed 1n Forma Pauperis at 2, ECFNo.4. In these circumstances, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 1915(bX2), the clerk shall assess, and Mr. Watkins shall make, "monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account." should there be any such income so credited.