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Gowadia v. Stearns

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 12, 2014

NOSHIR GOWADIA, Plaintiff,
v.
CULLY STEARNS (FDC-H), BRADLY GREILICK (FDC-H), R.J. BALLASH (Western Reg. Off.), JOSE A. SANTANA (Des. and Sent Comp.), BLAKE R. DAVIS (former Warden ADX), DAVID BERKEBILE (Warden, ADX), and PAUL M. LAIRD (North Cent Reg. Off.), Defendants.

ORDER

KATHLEEN M. TAFOYA, Magistrate Judge.

This case involves claims that Defendants violated Plaintiff's civil rights. This matter is before the court on "Defendants' Motion to Dismiss" (Doc. No. 43 [Mot.], filed August 9, 2013) filed by Defendants Stearns, Greilick, Santana, Davis, Berkebile and Laird, to which Plaintiff filed his response on August 27, 2013 (Doc. No. 45 [Resp.]) and Defendants filed their reply on September 10, 2013 (Doc. No. 49 [Reply]). Defendant Ballash filed a Joinder to the Motion to Dismiss on November 15, 2013 (Doc. No. 55 [Joinder]), and Plaintiff filed his response to the Joinder on November 27, 2013 (Doc. No. 56 [Resp. Joinder]). This matter is ripe for ruling.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

The following description is taken from Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. No. 16 [Compl.], filed April 5, 2013.) Plaintiff asserts jurisdiction under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). ( Id. at 3.) Plaintiff is an inmate at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum, in Florence, Colorado ("ADX"). ( Id. at 2.) Plaintiff alleges seven claims, one against each defendant. ( See id. ) All seven claims possess two common allegations: (1) Defendants conspired "to cover up a crime, " and (2) Defendants violated Plaintiff's procedural due process rights, either by triggering (or approving) Plaintiff's transfer to ADX, or by imposing a Special Administrative Measure ("SAM") pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 501.2. ( See id. ) Plaintiff seeks money damages against all defendants and injunctive relief against Defendant Berkebile, the current ADX warden. ( Id. at 14.)

LEGAL STANDARD

1. Pro Se Plaintiff

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. The court, therefore, "review[s] his pleadings and other papers liberally and hold[s] them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys." Trackwell v. United States, 472 F.3d 1242, 1243 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (holding allegations of a pro se complaint "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers"). However, a pro se litigant's "conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be based." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). A court may not assume that a plaintiff can prove facts that have not been alleged, or that a defendant has violated laws in ways that a plaintiff has not alleged. Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983); see also Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (a court may not "supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint"); Drake v. City of Fort Collins, 927 F.2d 1156, 1159 (10th Cir. 1991) (the court may not "construct arguments or theories for the plaintiff in the absence of any discussion of those issues").

2. Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) provides that a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for "lack of jurisdiction over the person." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over Defendants. OMI Holdings, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co., 149 F.3d 1086, 1091 (10th Cir. 1998). In the preliminary stages of litigation, Plaintiff's burden is light. Wenz v. Memery Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1505 (10th Cir. 1995). Where, as here, there has been no evidentiary hearing, and the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is decided on the basis of affidavits and other materials, Plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing that jurisdiction exists. Id.

Plaintiff "has the duty to support jurisdictional allegations in a complaint by competent proof of the supporting facts if the jurisdictional allegations are challenged by an appropriate pleading." Pytlik v. Prof'l Res., Ltd., 887 F.2d 1371, 1376 (10th Cir. 1989). The allegations in Plaintiff's complaint "must be taken as true to the extent they are uncontroverted by [Defendants'] affidavits.'" Wenz, 55 F.3d at 1505 ( quoting Doe v. Nat'l Med. Servs., 974 F.2d 143, 145 (10th Cir. 1992)). If the parties present conflicting affidavits, all factual disputes must be resolved in Plaintiff's favor, and "plaintiff's prima facie showing is sufficient notwithstanding the contrary presentation by the moving party." Id. (citation omitted). Only well-pleaded facts, as opposed to mere conclusory allegations, must be accepted as true. Id.

To determine whether a federal court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant in a diversity action, the court looks to the law of the forum state. Taylor v. Phelan, 912 F.2d 429, 431 (10th Cir. 1990). In Colorado, the assertion of personal jurisdiction must both: (1) satisfy the requirements of the long-arm statute; and (2) comport with due process. Id. ; Doering v. Copper Mountain, Inc., 259 F.3d 1202, 1209 (10th Cir. 2001); Classic Auto Sales, Inc. v. Schocket, 832 P.2d 233, 235 (Colo. 1992). Colorado's long-arm statute subjects a defendant to personal jurisdiction for engaging in - either in person or by an agent - the "commission of a tortious act within this state, " or the "transaction of any business within this state." Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-1-124(1)(a)-(b) (2007). To comport with due process, a defendant must have minimum contacts with the forum state such that maintenance of the lawsuit would not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Colorado's long-arm statute is a codification of the "minimum contacts" principle required by due process. See Lichina v. Futura, Inc., 260 F.Supp. 252, 255 (D. Colo. 1966). Accordingly, under Colorado law, a court may assert jurisdiction to the fullest extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See OMI Holdings, Inc., 149 F.3d at 1090; Scheur v. Dist. Ct., 684 P.2d 249 (Colo. 1984).

3. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) empowers a court to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) is not a judgment on the merits of a plaintiff's case. Rather, it calls for a determination that the court lacks authority to adjudicate the matter, attacking the existence of jurisdiction rather than the allegations of the complaint. See Castaneda v. INS, 23 F.3d 1576, 1580 (10th Cir. 1994) (recognizing federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may only exercise jurisdiction when specifically authorized to do so). The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction. Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974). A court lacking jurisdiction "must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking." See Basso, 495 F.2d at 909. The dismissal is without prejudice. Brereton v. Bountiful City Corp., 434 F.3d 1213, 1218 (10th Cir. 2006); see also Frederiksen v. City of Lockport, 384 F.3d 437, 438 (7th Cir. 2004) (noting that dismissals for lack of jurisdiction should be without prejudice because a dismissal with prejudice is a disposition on the merits which a court lacking jurisdiction may not render).

A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss "must be determined from the allegations of fact in the complaint, without regard to mere conclusionary allegations of jurisdiction." Groundhog v. Keeler, 442 F.2d 674, 677 (10th Cir. 1971). When considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, however, the Court may consider matters outside the pleadings without transforming the motion into one for summary judgment. Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1003 (10th Cir. 1995). Where a party challenges the facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction depends, a district court may not presume the truthfulness of the complaint's "factual allegations... [and] has wide discretion to allow affidavits, other documents, and [may even hold] a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts under Rule 12(b)(1)." Id.

4. Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a defendant may move to dismiss a claim for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (2007). "The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted." Dubbs v. Head Start, Inc., 336 F.3d 1194, 1201 (10th Cir. 2003) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

"A court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint presumes all of plaintiff's factual allegations are true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1198 (10th Cir. 1991). "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.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Plausibility, in the context of a motion to dismiss, means that the plaintiff pleaded facts which allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The Iqbal evaluation requires two prongs of analysis. First, the court identifies "the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth, " that is, those allegations which are legal conclusion, bare assertions, or merely conclusory. Id. at 1949-51. Second, the Court considers the factual allegations "to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1951. If the allegations state a plausible claim for relief, such claim survives the motion to dismiss. Id. at 1950.

Notwithstanding, the court need not accept conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments. Southern Disposal, Inc., v. Texas Waste, 161 F.3d 1259, 1262 (10th Cir. 1998). "[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1940. Moreover, "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does the complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Id. at 1949 (citation omitted). "Where a complaint pleads facts ...


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