Argued: January 29, 2019
from the United States District Court No. 8:15-cv-00079-GJH
for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. George Jarrod
Hazel, District Judge.
Breece Lobato, LOBATO LAW LLC, Lanham, Maryland, for
Wendy Carroll, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
Washington, D.C., for Appellee.
H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, Mark B. Stern, Civil
Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington,
D.C.; Robert K. Hur, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
WILKINSON, DIAZ, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.
WILKINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Anthony Robinson appeals the dismissal of his lawsuit against
the U.S. Department of Education for violations of the Fair
Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The district court found that it
lacked jurisdiction over the claim because Congress had not
waived sovereign immunity for suits under FCRA. It is settled
law that a waiver of sovereign immunity must be unambiguous
and unequivocal. Because the purported waiver here falls well
short of that standard, we affirm.
appeal arises from Robinson's claims against the Big
Three credit reporting agencies-Experian, Equifax, and
TransUnion-the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance
Agency, and the U.S. Department of Education. The suit
related to their treatment of an allegedly fraudulent student
loan in Robinson's name. As all claims against the
nonfederal defendants have now run their course, only
Robinson's FCRA claims against the Department of
Education remain on appeal.
Department administers the William D. Ford Federal Direct
Loan Program, through which it provides loans to students and
parents for postsecondary education costs. Robinson's
complaint detailed how the Department of Education
"directly or indirectly causes credit information to be
furnished to . . . consumer reporting agencies." J.A.
13, ¶ 7 (Amended Complaint). Robinson alleged that he
"discovered that there were Direct Loan student loan
accounts being reported to his Experian, Equifax, and Trans
Union credit reports," J.A. 14, ¶ 8, even though he
did not "authorize a student loan account to be opened
in his name," id. ¶ 9. Appellant asserted
that he "has been disputing the Direct Loan
accounts," "[s]ince November 2011 or earlier."
Id. ¶ 10; see also J.A. 14-15, ¶¶
11-14. In this action, he alleged that the Department
violated FCRA, specifically 15 U.S.C. § 1681s-2(b),
"by failing to fully and properly investigate
[Appellant's] disputes," J.A. 17, ¶ 27, and
"failing to review all relevant information"
related to his claim, id. ¶ 28. The complaint
brought claims under 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681n and 1681o,
which provide civil causes of action for willful and
negligent FCRA violations, respectively.
Department filed a motion to dismiss for want of subject
matter jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). After comparing FCRA's language to several
recognized waivers of sovereign immunity, the district court
reasoned that FCRA's language did not unequivocally and
unambiguously waive sovereign immunity. Robinson v. Pa.
Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, No. GJH-15-0079, 2017 WL
1277429 (D. Md. Apr. 3, 2017). According to the district
court, the plaintiff's reading of the waiver would, among
other things, absurdly expose the federal government to
criminal prosecutions. The court thus granted the
government's motion and dismissed Robinson's claims
against the Department. Id. Robinson asked ...