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Taylor v. U.S. Dep't of State

October 20, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer L. Thurston United States Magistrate Judge


(Doc. 1)

I. Screening

Plaintiff is a prisoner and seeks damages against an agency of the United States government. The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE .

II. Background

Plaintiff is a prisoner serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. (Doc. 1 at 4) Plaintiff is a practicing Moslem and he alleges that being an American citizen is contrary to his beliefs. Id. As a result, Plaintiff has sought to renounce his citizenship. Id. He asserts that he wishes to establish his own country and has provided a website print-out that discusses the availability of islands, which are part of an archipelago near Dubai, for purchase for that purpose. (Doc. 1, Ex. C)

To achieve his goal of relieving himself of Untied States citizenship, Plaintiff mailed letters to the State Department in March 2009 and May 2009.*fn1 Id. In response, the State Department referred Plaintiff to 8 USC § 1481, which sets forth the circumstances under which he may renounce his citizenship. (Id.; Doc. 1, Ex B.) The State Department pointed out to Plaintiff that, in order to renounce his citizenship, he must make his formal renunciation of his nationality while in a foreign state and that a renunciation may be effective while still in the United States only if this country is in a state of war.*fn2 Clearly, due to Plaintiff's state of incarceration, he is prohibited from the necessary travel.

Plaintiff admits that he has not complied with 8 USC § 1481 but claims that its requirements are unconstitutional and are in conflict with his religious freedoms. He admits also that he has not sought administrative review of the decision to reject his renunciation but claims that the agency has no such review process.*fn3 (Doc. 1 at 2)

III. Analysis

A. The Complaint Fails to State a Claim Because the United States is Immune from Suit

The United States is immune from suit unless it has waived its sovereign immunity and consents to be sued. See, e.g., United States v. Dalm, 494 U.S. 596, 608 (1990); United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941); United States v. Shaw, 309 U.S. 495, 500-501 (1940); Gilbert v. DaGrossa, 756 F.2d 1455, 1458 (9th Cir. 1985). Absent a waiver of sovereign immunity, a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over a claim against the United States, and dismissal is required. Hutchinson v. United States, 677 F.2d 1322, 1327 (9th Cir. 1982). A waiver of sovereign immunity cannot be implied; rather, it must be unequivocally expressed. United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538, 100 S.Ct. 1349, 1351, 63 L.Ed. 2d 607 (1980).

An action brought against a federal agency, such as the State Department, effectively, is an action brought against the United States. See, e.g., Dugan v. Rank, 372 U.S. 609, 620 (1963); Blackmar v. Guerre, 342 U.S. 512, 514-515 (1952). As a Department of the United States, the State Department possesses the same sovereign immunity as the United States. Therefore, it cannot be sued absent an express waiver of that immunity. State of Neb. ex rel. Dep't. of Soc. Servs. v. Bentson, 146 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 1998).

In Santucci v. United States State Dep't, 2005 U.S. LEXIS 29028 at *7 (D. Ariz. Nov. 21, 2005), the Court considered an action filed by plaintiffs who sought to renounce their United States citizenship. The State Department refused to issue the plaintiffs a Certificate of Loss of Nationality because it determined that they sought to retain certain privileges of citizenship and, hence, failed to demonstrate that their renunciation was voluntary. Id. at *6. Plaintiffs sued and the Court granted the government's motion to dismiss based upon the ...

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