NATHAN v. USA, No. 1:2015cv00708 - Document 10 (Fed. Cl. 2015)

Court Description: UNREPORTED MEMORANDUM OPINION and FINAL ORDER granting 6 Motion to Dismiss - Rule 12(b)(1) and (6); and denying, as moot, 8 Motion for Default Judgment. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment. Signed by Judge Susan G. Braden. (dls) Copy to parties.
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NATHAN v. USA Doc. 10 ORIGIflIAI. lln tbB @nfte! $tutts [.ourt of jfelersl No. 15-708 C Filed: November 4,2015 NOT TO BE PUBLISHED ***** + *,t * * * * * + * * * * * *,1. :* :1. :* @lsfms FILED Nov *'* * * * * * * * * * * * *'1. * - 4 20t5 U.S. COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS ERIC L. NATHAN, Plaintiff, pro se, THE UNITED STATES, Defendant. ** :t :t **** :* r. * *,1. * * *'t * * + * :* :1. ****t* r( *** :* * * +,r Eric L. Nathan, Lancaster, California, pro + {. se. James Robert Sweet, United States Departrnent of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, D.C., Counsel for the Govemment. MEMORANDUM OPINION AND FINAL ORDER BRADEN,,/adge. I. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND.I 0, 1995, Eric L. Nathan was convicted in the Superior Court of Califomia for the County ofLos Angeles ofone count of attempted first degree residential burglary in violation of califomia Penal code $$ 459, 664. Compl., Ex. K, at A-14, A-17. On July 31, 1997, rhe Califomia Court of ,+ppeils affirmed the conviction for attempted burglary, pursuant to Mr. Nathan's appeal. compl . at 1, 4. Mr. Nathan alleges that the califomia court of Appeals improperly'affirmed a conviction for burglary, a crime for which he was not charged, instead of On October I rThe relevant facts were derived from Plaintiff s July 7,2015 Complaint and exhibits attached thereto ("Compl. Exs. A, D, J, K"). attemptedburglaty, the crime for which he was charged and convicted.2 Compl. at 4-5 (emphasis added). II. PROCEDURALHISTORY. On July 7, 2015, Eric L. Nathan ("Plaintiff') filed a Complaint ("Compl.") in the United States Court of Federal Claims, seeking $1,800,000 for "unjust conviction & imprisonment" and violation of his constitutional right to Due Process under the Fouteenth Amendment. That same day, Plaintiff also filed a Motion For Leave To Proceed 1n Forma Pauperis. On September 2,2015, Plainti{f s luly 7,2015 Motion For Leave To Proceed In Formct Pauperis was granted. On September 8, 2015, the Govemment filed a Motion To Dismiss ("Gov't Mot ")' pursuant to Rules 12(bXl) and l2(b)(6) ofthe Rules ofthe United States Court ofFederal Claims ('RCFC'). On September 25, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion For Default- Judgment ("P1. Mot ")' pursuanl to Ruie 55(a) ofthe Federal Rules ofCivil Procedure ("FRCP").3 That same day, Plaintiff also filed a Response to the Govemment's Motion To Dismiss ("P1. Resp."). III. DISCUSSION. A. Jurisdiction. The United States Court ofFederal Claims hasjurisdiction under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. ,,to render judgment upon any claim against the United States founded either upon the $ 1491, Constitution, or any Act of Congress or any regulation of an executive department, oI upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in Although Plaintiff conectly points out that in People v. Nathan,No.8102092 at 14 (Cal. Ct. App. Jul. 3l,1997), the Califomia Court of Appeals incorrectly refened to his crime as burglary, instead of attempted burglary, it is clear from other references to attempted burglary in the*opinion that the court affirmed his charge of attempted burglary and did not improperly affirm a charge for which Plaintiff was not convicted ld. at 4, 5. 2 On September 25, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion For Default Judgment pursuant to FRCP the 60 55, citing to thi Government's failure to answer or respond to Plaintiff s complaint within last day in the period by failing day perio'd. Pl. Mot. at I . The Plaintiff, however, miscalculated the to account for it landing on a weekend, followed by a Monday that was a federal holiday. ,See RCFC 6(l) ("When the period is stated in days or a longer unit of time: (A) excluding the day of the event ti-rat triggers the period: (B) count every day, including intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays; and (b) include the last day of the period, but if the last day is a Saturday, S'nda!, or tegai trotiAay, the period continues to run until the end of the next day that is not a saturduy, sun-day or legal holiday."). Moreover, in Plaintiffs september 25,2015 Response, he filed' Pl. concedes that the Government's september 18,2015 Motion To Dismiss was timely is denied as moot. Resp. at 1. Thus, Plaintiff s September 25,2015 Motion For Default Judgment 3 tort." 28 U.S.C. $ 1a91(a)(l). The Tucker Act, however, is "ajurisdictional not create any substantive right enforceable against the United States for money statute; it does damages . . . [T]he Act merely confers jurisdiction upon [the United States Court of Federal Claimsl whenever the substantive right exists." United States v. Testan,424U.5.392,398 (19'76). cases not sounding in . To pursue a substantive right under the Tucker Act, a plaintiff must identifr and plead an independent contractual relationship, constitutional provision, federal statute, and/or executive agency regulation that provides a substantive right to money damages. See Todd v. United States, 386 F.3d 1091, 1094 (Fed. Cir. 2004) ("Ulurisdiction under the Tucker Act requires the litigant to identifu a substantive right for money damages against the United States separate from the Tucker Act[.]"); see also Fisher v. United States,402F.3d 1167,1172 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) ("The TuckerAct... does not create a substantive cause ofaction; ... a plaintiff must identify a separate source of substantive law that creates the right to money damages. . . [T]hat source must be 'money-mandating."'). Specifically, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the source of substantive law upon which he relies "can fairly be interpreted as mandating compensation by the Federal Govemment[.]" Testqn, 424 U.S. at 400. And, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance ofthe evidence. See Reynolds v. Army & Air Force Exch. Serv., 846 F.2d 746,748 (Fed. Cir. 1988) ("[O]nce the [trial] court's subject matter jurisdiction [is] put in question . . . [the plaintiff] bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence."). . B. Standard Of Review For Pro Se Litigants. Pro se plaintiffs' pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those of litigants represented by counsel. See Haines v. Kerner,404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (holding IhaI pro se complaints, "however inartfully pleaded," are held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers"). This court traditionally examines the record "to see if [a pro se] llaintitihas a cause of action somewhere displayed." Ruderer v. United States, 188 Cl. Ct. 456, +OA ftSOS). Nevertheless, while the court may excuse ambiguities in apro se plaintiff s complaint, i'does not excuse the court [a complaint's] failures." Henke v. [Jnited States, 60 F.3d 795,799 (Fed. Cir. 1995). C. Standards For Motion To Dismiss. 1. Under RCFC l2(bxl). A challenge to the United States Court of Federal Claims' "general power to adjudicate in is properly raised by a [Rule] l2(b)(l) motion[.]" specific areas of substantive law Falmer u. United States, t 6g F.3d 13 10, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 1999); see a/so RCFC 12(bXl) ("Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be asserted in the responsive pleading . . . . But a party may assert the following defenses by motion: (1) lack of subject-matter jurisdiction[.]"). When considering whether to dismiss an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, "a court must accept as true all undisputed facts asserted in the plaintiff s complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Trusted Integration, Inc. v. United States, 659 F.3d 1159, 1163 (Fed. Cir. 2011). 2. UnderRCFC 12(bX6). A challenge to the United States Cow of Federal Claims' "[ability] to exercise its general power with regard to the facts peculiar to the specific claim . . . is raised by a [Rule] l2(b)(6) motion[.]" Palmer, 168 F.3d at 1313; see a/so RCFC 12(b)(6) ("Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be asserted in the responsive pleading . . . . But a party may assert the following defenses by motion: . . . (6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]"). When considering whether to dismiss an action for failure to state a claim, the court must assess whether "a claim has been stated adequately" and then whether "it may be supported by [a] showing [of] any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombl1, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007). The plaintiff s factual allegations must be substantial enough to raise the right to relief "above the speculative level;' Id. at 555. The coutt must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. 1d D. The Government's September 25,,2015 Motion To Dismiss. 1. The Government's Argument. The Govemmenl argues that Plaintiff s July 7, 2015 Complaint should be dismissed, because the court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs claims. Gov't Mot. at 3-6. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. $ 1495, the Complaint fails to state a "claim for damages by any person unjustly convicted of an offense against the United States and imprisoned," because Plaintiff was convicied of a state crime as opposed to a federal crime. Gov't Mot. at 3. Moreover, Plaintiff does not allege that his conviction has been reversed or put aside but instead concedes that the California Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and he remains in prison. Gov't Mot. at 5. The Govemment also argues that this court does not have jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs constitutional challenges to his criminal conviction, because "[t]his Court lacks jurisdiction to review the decisions or actions of another Court." Gov't Mot' at 5' 2. Plaintiff s ResPonse. Plaintiff s Response to the Govemment's September 8, 2015 Motion To Dismiss recycles arguments from the July 7, 2015 Complaint. Plaintiff continues to insist that this court has was unjustly punished & .luiisdiction under to 28 U.S.C. $$ 1495, 2513(a), because "he imprisoned." Pl. Resp. at l. 3. The Court's Resolution. The court is cognizant of its obligation to liberally construe pro se plaintiffs' pleadings. liberally See Estelle v. Gambte,429 tJ.S. 97, 106 ( 1976) (holding that the "pro se document is to be construed"). Br]d, pro se plaintiffs must still "comply with the applicable rules of procedural and substantive law." lqalsh v. United States,3 Cl. Ct. 539, 541 (1983). The court cannot simply excuse a comDlaint's failures. See Henke,60F.3dat799- The July 7,2015 Complaint fails to demonstrate how Plaintiff s unjust conviction and imprisonment claim implicates the United States. Under the Tucker Act, the United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction to adjudicate "any claim for damages by any person unjustly convicted ofan offense against the United States and imprisoned." 28 U.S.C. $ 1495' The July 7, 2015 Complaint, however, does not concem the limited circumstances of 28 U.S.C. S 1495, because Plaintilf was not unjustly convicted ofan offense against the United States, rather he was convicted of a state crime in a state court. Thus, this court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate *2 (Fed. Cir. July this claim. See, e.g., Machulas v. United States, 15-5042,2015 WL 4174006, at 13, 2015) (holding that the United States Court ofFederal Claims did not have jurisdiction over a plaintiff s claim for unjust conviction and imprisonment, because the plaintiff was convicted ofa state crime in Georgia Superior Court and not a federal crime in a federal court); see clso Robinson v. United States, No. 99-5120, 2000 WL 158487, at * 1 (Fed. Cir. Feb 1 1, 2000) (affirming the United States Court of Federal Claims' dismissal for lack ofjurisdiction where a plaintiff alleged illegal and unconstitutional deprivation of personal liberty relating to a criminal conviction in an Indiana state court, because the plaintiff was not unjustly convicted ofa crime against the United States). Moreover, the Complaint fails to allege that the conviction and incarceration were unjust. Although the United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction to award compensation to those who are unjustly convicted and imprisoned, see 28 U.S.C. $ 1495, section 2513(a) imposes several additional limitations that any party suing under section 1495 must allege and prove: His conviction has been reversed or set aside on the ground that he is not guilty of the offense of which he was convicted, or on new trial or rehearing he was found not guilty of such offense, as appezus from the record or certificate of the court setting aside or reversing such conviction, or that he has been pardoned upon the stated ground of innocence and unjust conviction and He did not commit any of the acts charged or his acts' deeds, or omissions with such charge constituted no offense against the United States, or any State, Tenitory or the District of columbia, and he did not by misconduct or neglect cause or bring about his own prosecution 28 U.S.C. $ 2513(a). Therefore, ,'the court's jurisdiction to entertain a claim for money damages for unjust conviction arises only after the challenged conviction has been reversed, on grounds ofinnocence, by a court of compeient jurisdiction or by Presidential pardon." Lott v. United States,ll Cl. Ct. A3Z,AS:0957);ieealsoChevalierv.unitedStates,32gFed. App'x924,926(Fed.Cir.2009) (holding that the United States Court of Federal Claims conectly found that it did not have jurisdiJion over claims of unjust conviction arising under 28 U.S.C. $ 1495 where the plaintiff iad not complied with 28 U.S.C. $ 2513(a), and admitted that his conviction had not been reversed). The July 7, 2015 Complaint does not assert a finding of innocence, pardon, 9r certificate of innocence to establish unjust conviction and imprisonment under 28 U.S.C. $ 2513. See Vicin Cl. 1972) (holding that the plaintiff could not prevail on a v. United States,468F.2d930,933 (t. claim for unjust conviction without'the recitals specified by the statute (innocence as certified by the pardon or certificate ofthe appropriate court, etc.)"). Finally, this court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim, because money damages are not available for alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. See LeBlqnc v. United States,50 F.3d 1025, 1028 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (explaining that the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments are not a suffrcient basis for jurisdiction, because they are not money-mandating). Because this court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate PlaintifPs claims, it need not address the statute of limitations issue raised in the Government's September 8, 2015 Motion To Dismiss. Iv. CONCLUSION. For these reasons, the Govemment's September 25,2015 Motion To Dismiss is granted. See RCFC 12(bX1), 12(bX6). Plaintiffs September 25,2015 Motion For Default Judgment is denied as moot. The Clerk is directed to dismiss Plaintiffs July 7,2015 Complaint. IT IS SO ORDERED.