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Campbell v. United States Dep't of Education

June 28, 2010

DARNELL M. CAMPBELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER: GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (Doc. No. 11)

Presently before the Court is Defendant United States Department of Education's motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 11.) Also before the Court are Plaintiff's opposition (Doc. No. 20) and Defendant's reply. (Doc. No. 17.) For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED and Plaintiff's request to transfer is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Darnell Marquis Campbell alleges that in 1998 and 1999, four student loans, totaling $5,968.00, were disbursed to San Diego State University (SDSU). (Compl. ¶¶ 7--8.) At that time, Plaintiff was an SDSU student. (Id. ¶ 9.) "Plaintiff stopped going to school [in] the Fall of 1999." (Id. ¶ 12.) However, Plaintiff alleges that he was unaware of these loans until March 2002. (Id.) He chalks the existence of the loans up to identity theft. (See, e.g., id. at 2.) Although Plaintiff has petitioned the Department of Education for the discharge of these debts, those requests were rejected. (Id. ¶¶ 34--37.) Plaintiff filed this case on February 3, 2010, seeking to recover under the False Claims Act. (Doc. No. 1.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to raise by motion the defense that the complaint "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," generally referred to as a motion to dismiss. The Court evaluates whether a complaint states a cognizable legal theory and sufficient facts in light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Although Rule 8 "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' . . . it [does] demand[] more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- US - , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled "allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). That is not to say that the claim must be probable, but there must be "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. Facts "'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" fall short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, the Court need not accept as true "legal conclusions" contained in the complaint. Id. This review requires context-specific analysis involving the Court's "judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950 (citation omitted). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not 'show[n]'-'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id.

DISCUSSION

Although Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss, he does not make any substantive arguments as to why this case should not be dismissed. Instead, Defendant requests that this action be transferred to the United States Court of Federal Claims. (Opp. at 1.) Therefore, the Court will first address the motion to dismiss and then address whether this case should be transferred.

I. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

Having fully considered Defendant's motion to dismiss, the Court finds that there are three reasons why this action must be dismissed. First, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Second, this action is barred by the principles of sovereign immunity. And third, Plaintiff's claim does not set forth a justiciable case or controversy. Each of these defects require that this case be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

First, the Complaint in this matter does not "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," even when the Court assumes that all of the facts therein alleged are true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, et seq., is "'intended to reach all types of fraud, without qualification, that might result in financial loss to the Government.'" United States ex rel. Hendow v. Univ. of Phoenix, 461 F.3d 1166, 1170 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v. Neifert-White Co., 390 U.S. 228, 232 (1968)). It allows a plaintiff to bring an action on behalf of the Government-in what is known as a qui tam suit-for violations of the Act. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(1). The plaintiff must serve on the Government "[a] copy of the complaint and written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses." Id. § 3730(b)(2).

To prevail on a False Claims Act claim, the plaintiff must show that the Defendant (1) knowingly presented, or caused to be presented, to the government a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval, (2) knowingly made, used, or caused to be made or used, a false record or statement to get a false or fraudulent claim paid or approved by the government, or (3) conspired to defraud the government by getting a false or fraudulent claim allowed or paid. 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729(a), 3730(b).

Plaintiff's allegations, however, do not "allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This is because he has not alleged that the Defendant Department of Education filed a false claim with or otherwise used false ...


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