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Ahmad v. United States

United States District Court, D. Colorado

July 6, 2015

SYED SHARAF AHMAD, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

RECOMMENDATION REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

CRAIG B. SHAFFER, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 17] filed by the United States ("Defendant"). The motion was referred to the Magistrate Judge by Order of Reference dated December 2, 2014. [Doc. 19]. Plaintiff filed a letter in response to the motion on March 16, 2015. [Doc. 24]. For the following reasons, the court recommends that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a small claims "Notice, Claim and Summons to Appear for Trial" in Arapahoe County Court alleging $450.00 in damages against Linda Delancy, the Postmaster of the Tower Station in Centennial, Colorado. [Doc. 1-1]. The complaint alleged that Defendant Delancy sent Plaintiff's son's green card to Plaintiff's previous address "even after the Post Office was notified of [Plaintiff's] change in address." Id. Plaintiff further alleged that the green card was lost and, consequently, he had to pay $450.00 to order a new card. Id. Defendant Delancy removed the action to this court on October 24, 2014. [Doc. 1]. Thereafter - because Defendant Delancy was acting in her official capacity at the time the alleged incidents occurred - the United States was substituted as the sole Defendant for all claims in the complaint. [ See Doc. 6 (motion to substitute) and Doc. 10 (order granting motion to substitute)]. Defendant has now filed a motion to dismiss based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[1] [Doc. 17].

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Federal courts, as courts of limited jurisdiction, must have a statutory basis for their jurisdiction. See Morris v. City of Hobart, 39 F.3d 1105, 1111 (10th Cir. 1994) (citing Castaneda v. INS, 23 F.3d 1576, 1580 (10th Cir. 1994)). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the court may dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The determination of a court's jurisdiction over subject matter is a question of law. Madsen v. United States ex rel. U.S. Army, Corps of Eng'rs, 841 F.2d 1011, 1012 (10th Cir. 1987). "A court lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking." Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974).

A motion to dismiss for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction may take two forms. See Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002 (10th Cir. 1995). It may facially attack a complaint's allegations or it may challenge the facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction depends. Id. at 1002-1003.

When reviewing a factual attack on subject matter jurisdiction, a district court may not presume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations. A court has wide discretion to allow affidavits, other documents, and a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts under Rule 12(b)(1). In such instances, a court's reference to evidence outside the pleadings does not convert the motion to a Rule 56 motion.

Id. at 1003 (internal citations omitted); see also Wheeler v. Hurdman, 825 F.2d 257, 259 n.5 (10th Cir. 1987). "The burden of establishing subject-matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction." Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).

B. Exclusive Jurisdiction of the Postal Regulatory Commission

Plaintiff's complaint has alleged a customer service related claim arising out of Defendant's alleged failure to deliver Plaintiff's son's green card to the proper address. [ See Docs. 1-1 and 24]. The court, however, lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate this claim because a postal customer's exclusive remedy for unsatisfactory service lies with the Postal Regulatory Commission. As the United States Court of Federal Claims explained in Naskar v. United States, 82 Fed.Cl. 319 (2008):

To the extent that plaintiff's claim could be construed as a service complaint against the United States, the Postal [Regulatory] Commission (the Commission) has exclusive jurisdiction over it. See 39 U.S.C. ยง3662 (2006); LeMay v. United States Postal Serv., 450 F.3d 797, 801 (8th Cir. 2006) (holding that the Postal Rate Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over customer complaints of unsatisfactory service); Shelby Res., Inc. v. United States Postal Serv., 619 F.Supp. 1546, 1548-49 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (holding that a hearing by the Commission and potential review in a United States Court of Appeals is "the sole remedy for a user of postal services who is not receiving adequate service"). Section 3662 of Title 39 of the United States Code provides: "Any interested person... who believes the Postal Service is not operating in conformance ...

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