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Taylor v. Mnuchin

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 5, 2019

RITA D. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Rita D. Taylor (“Taylor”) brings this action against Defendant Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of the United States Department of Treasury alleging various claims of employment discrimination and retaliation. (Doc. 5). Defendant has moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (Doc. 12). Defendant makes several arguments in its motion, notably that the action should be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of jurisdiction and pursuant to 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.[2] (see doc. 13). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for review.[3] For the reasons below, Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction is due to be GRANTED.

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, with the power to hear only cases authorized by the Constitution or by statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move the court to dismiss a case if the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. Even when a party does not assert a jurisdictional challenge, “a federal court is obligated to inquire into subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be lacking.” Bochese v. Town of Ponce Inlet, 405 F.3d 964, 975 (11th Cir. 2005). Simply put, a federal court is powerless to act beyond its constitutional or statutory grant of subject-matter jurisdiction. Smith v. GTE Corp., 236 F.3d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 2001). Regardless of how the issue came before the court, a plaintiff, as the party invoking jurisdiction, bears the burden of establishing the court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994).

         A challenge to a court's subject matter jurisdiction may come by way of a facial attack or a factual attack:

Facial attacks on the complaint require the court merely to look and see if the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in his complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion. Factual attacks, on the other hand, challenge the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered.

Garcia v. Copenhaver, Bell & Assocs., MDs, 104 F.3d 1256, 1261 (11th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         Furthermore, Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., permits dismissal when a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. See also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         II. Analysis

         Defendant contends that many of Taylor's claims are barred by sovereign immunity and the remaining claims are untimely and must be dismissed. (Doc. 13 at 11-12).

         A. Sovereign Immunity

         Generally speaking, the United States, [4] as a sovereign, is immune from suit unless it has consented to be sued. United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941). “Sovereign immunity is jurisdictional in nature, and the terms of the United States' consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.” F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994). Waivers of sovereign immunity are to be strictly construed with no exceptions implied. United States v. Nordic Vill., Inc., 503 U.S. 30, 34 (1992). Therefore, in the absence of clear congressional intent, the courts routinely find no jurisdiction to entertain suits against the United States and dismiss any such actions. United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538 (1980).

         In this case, the United States has not waived its sovereign immunity. Therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction over many of Taylor's claims, including those asserting violations of the Constitution or any IRS Code Manuals or any other claims outside of Title VII or the Age Discrimination Employment Act (“ADEA”). (Doc. 5 at 3-4). See Brown v. Gen. Servs. Admin., 425 U.S. 820 (1976); Leonard v. Rumsfeld, 146 F.Supp.2d 1227 (M.D. Ala. ...

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