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Bond v. Hughes

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 12, 2017

WILLIAM C. BOND, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNNY L. HUGHES, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David A. Faber Senior United States District Judge

         Pending before the court is Plaintiff’s Complaint against various federal officials in Maryland. See Doc. No. 1. The Defendants are the United States Marshal for the District of Maryland, the Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. Plaintiff alleges cover-ups, surveillance and entrapment based on conclusory allegations and little basis in fact or, for that matter, law. Plaintiff also seeks $15 million from Government Defendants for compensatory damages and $30 million from them for punitive damages-and he does so 6 times. Plaintiff appears to seek a total of $270 million. Plaintiff’s allegations are unavailing.

         In addition, Plaintiff is a frequent litigant before this court. Typically, he alleges various blanket but unspecific violations of his legal rights. He is now admonished that his continuing to file frivolous and vexatious lawsuits may result in an order denying him further access to the court on such matters.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         For several years, Plaintiff has protested what he claims to be “‘provable corruption’ in the Maryland U.S. courthouse.” Id. In April 2013, Plaintiff created a public relations campaign named the “Baltimore Corruption Wire.” He also created the phrase “White Guerilla Family” to refer to certain members of the Maryland federal judiciary. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that principally due to his protests and corruption allegations he has been interviewed and surveilled by federal agents. Plaintiff further alleges that members of the judiciary and other federal officials have conspired to violate his First Amendment and due process rights. See id. Plaintiff premises his causes of action on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). In particular, Plaintiff alleges the following six unconstitutional acts:[1]

Count I – On July 19, 2013 and July 30, 2013, federal agents questioned plaintiff “regarding the potential safety of various government officials and federal judges,” in an effort to “prevent and/or to intimidate plaintiff’s planned demonstrations . . ..” Doc. No 1.
Count II – Plaintiff alleges that he met with “activists” in July of 2013 to plan a protest at the U.S. District Courthouse, but that the activists “were undercover U.S. government agents sent (1) with the clear intention to sabotage plaintiff’s U.S. courthouse protests in any way possible and (2) to criminally entrap plaintiff by attempting to engage plaintiff in discussions of violence against federal officials[.]” Doc. No. 1.
Counts III & IV – Plaintiff alleges in the fall of 2013, a Deputy U.S. Marshal informed Plaintiff that he had been under surveillance since 2010. Plaintiff alleges that this surveillance violated his constitutional rights. See Doc. No. 1.
Count V – Plaintiff alleges that on September 29, 2015, a Deputy U.S. Marshal “invade[d]” his pro se litigant work and attempted to criminally entrap him.” Doc. No 1.
Count VI – Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants “have at all times since 2001 until present been in an extended conspiracy to deprive plaintiff of his First Amendment & due process rights,” and that “[w]hen a new U.S. Attorney was assigned to Maryland in 2006, part of his assignment was to continue to ignore and/or cover-up the aforementioned conspiracy against plaintiff.” Doc. No 1.

         With respect to each count, Plaintiff alleges that “[t]hese intentional, knowing, bad-faith, and illegal acts by the defendants caused plaintiff great worry, anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, etc., amongst many other things, as it was clear to plaintiff that his enemies would stop at nothing to defeat his constitutional rights.” Doc. No 1. Subsequently, the United States filed its Motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint, or, in the alternative, substitute the United States as the sole Defendant and dismiss the Complaint. See Doc. No. 16.

         II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

         Next, the court articulates the legal standards pertinent to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6) and 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Civil Rules”), respectively.

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         The court commences its analysis with subject matter jurisdiction. A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) asks “whether the court has the competence or authority to hear the case.” Davis v. Thompson, 367 F. Supp. 2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). Prior to reaching the merits of a case, a federal court first must determine that it has jurisdiction over the claim presented. See Sinochem Int’l Co. Ltd. v. Malaysia Int’l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 430-31 (2007) (citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Env’t, 523 U.S. 83, 93-102 (1998)). When a defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. U.S., 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)). The requirement that the plaintiff establish subject matter jurisdiction “as a threshold matter ‘springs from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States’ and is ‘inflexible and without exception.’” Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 94-95 (quoting Mansfield, C. & L. M. R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884)). Hence, “[t]he objection that a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction may be raised by a party, or by a court on its own initiative, at any stage in the litigation, even after trial and the entry of judgment.” Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)).

         In circumstances where a defendant challenges subject matter jurisdiction, “the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Evans, 166 F.3d at 647 (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co., 945 F.2d at 768); see also Williams v. U.S., 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995) (When considering exhibits beyond the pleadings, the court “is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case.”) (internal quotation omitted). Under such circumstances, “the court may look beyond the pleadings and the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.” Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F. Supp. 2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003) (quotation omitted), aff’d, 85 F. App’x 960 (4th Cir. 2004). The court may properly grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction.” Davis, 367 F. Supp. 2d at 799 (citing Crosten v. Kamauf, 932 F. Supp. 676, 679 (D. Md. 1996)).

         Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction tests whether the court has the authority to hear a case or controversy. After all, the “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, constrained to exercise only the authority conferred by Article III of the Constitution and affirmatively granted by federal statute.” Gill v. PNC Bank et al., Civil Action No. TDC-14-0677, 2015 WL 629004, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 11, 2015) (quoting In re Bulldog Trucking, Inc., 147 F.3d 347, 352 (4th Cir. 1998)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The federal courts are not like the state courts, which retain general jurisdiction. It follows that this court, as a federal court, is empowered to exercise jurisdiction only when the Constitution and federal law so permit.[2]

         There is a constitutional provenance at the heart of this principle. Article III limits the subject matter jurisdiction of federal courts to “cases” and “controversies.” See Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750 (1984). Consistent with the “cases” and “controversies” requirement, plaintiffs must demonstrate that they have standing to bring, and maintain, suit in federal court throughout the duration of litigation. In fact, the United States Supreme Court has cast the doctrine of mootness as intertwined with standing: “the doctrine of standing set in a time frame: The requisite personal interest that must exist at the commencement of the litigation (standing) must continue throughout its existence (mootness).” Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 68 n. 22 (1997). This is because the federal courts “are not permitted to render an advisory opinion.” Herb v. Pitcairn, 324 U.S. 117, 125-26 (1945). So true is this that “[t]he Supreme Court has made clear that standing is an essential and unchanging part of that case-or-controversy requirement, one that states fundamental limits on federal judicial power in our system of government.” Doe v. Obama, 631 F.3d 157, 160 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992); Allen, 468 U.S. at 750) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). To satisfy the standing requirement, a plaintiff must demonstrate:

(1) that he has suffered an “injury in fact” that is (a) particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Doe, 631 F.3d at 160 (citing Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180-81 (2000)).

         Furthermore, a plaintiff cannot demonstrate standing by stating that he or she brings suit on behalf of the general public. “Plaintiffs may not establish their standing to bring suit merely because they disagree with a government policy or because they share the ‘generalized interest of all citizens in constitutional governance.’” Moss et al. v. Spartanburg Cnty. Sch. Dist. Seven, 683 F.3d 599, 604–05 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Schlesinger v. Reservists Comm. to Stop the War, 418 U.S. 208, 217 (1974)). Therefore, a plaintiff may not predicate her standing to sue “upon an interest . . . which is held in common by all members of the public, because of the necessarily abstract nature of the ...


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