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Scott v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 20, 2014

BYRON L. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE (Doc. 1)

BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Byron L. Scott ("Plaintiff"), a prisoner appearing pro se, filed this action against the United States of America ("Defendant") in which he seeks the renunciation of his citizenship. (Doc. 1).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Wasco State Prison located in Kern County, California. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he is a sovereign American free from the rights and obligations of any contract, commercial agreement, or bankruptcy.[1] (Pl's. Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 7). While it is not entirely clear, Plaintiff appears to allege that he should not be subject to any bankruptcy proceedings under federal law because based on his personal sovereignty he is not a citizen of the United States. Based on this belief, in January 2012, Plaintiff sent a "Declaration of Certificate of Sovereign Status" to the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security informing both agencies that he wanted to renounce his United States citizenship. (Compl. ¶ 4; Exhs. A, B & D of Complaint). In July 2013, the Civil Division of the Justice Department responded to Plaintiff, acknowledging that it had received his administrative tort claim dated May 16, 2013. (Exh D. of Complaint.) However, to date, Plaintiff has not been allowed to renounce his citizenship. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's negligence in either "refusing or neglecting to respond to his Application and Notice of Renunciation of Nationality, " "denied [him] the liberty to redress any appearance of being indebted to the government." Compl. ¶ 9-10, 23. As a result, Plaintiff filed this action for damages and a court order renouncing his citizenship to the United States.

DISCUSSION

A. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by persons proceeding in pro per. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's Complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences." Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

While persons proceeding pro se in civil actions are still entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, the pleading standard is now higher, Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted), and to survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

B. Plaintiff Fails to State a Claim because the United States is Immune from Suit

Plaintiff names the United States of America as the sole Defendant in this suit. It is well-established that "the United States is a sovereign entity and may not be sued without its consent." 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). Absent its consent to suit, a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over a claim against the United States and the "action against the United States must be dismissed." 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 (1980). Here, the United States has not waived sovereign immunity and consented to this suit. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1110 (9th. Cir. 1995).

To the extent Plaintiff alleges claims against the Department of Homeland Security in addition to the United States, any action brought against a federal agency, such as the Department of Homeland Security, is effectively one brought against the United States. See, e.g., Dugan v. Rank, 372 U.S. 609, 620 (1963). As an agency of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security possesses the same sovereign immunity as the United States. Therefore, neither the United States of America nor the Department of Homeland Security can 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).

Additionally, the Court notes that Plaintiff's case is nearly identical to Taylor v. United States Dep't of State, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111618 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2010). In Taylor, the Court considered an action filed by a prisoner plaintiff who sought to renounce his United States citizenship. The State Department refused to relieve Plaintiff of his citizenship status because it determined that in order for Plaintiff to renounce his citizenship, he must make his formal renunciation of his nationality while in a foreign state. Id. at *2. Plaintiff sued and the Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint based in part on the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Id. at *4; Taylor v. United States Dep't of State, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143619 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2010).

As in Taylor, this case should be dismissed on the basis of sovereign immunity. Therefore, this Court recommends that the matter be DISMISSED against the United ...


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