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Muse v. United States Dep't of Education

March 9, 2010

DENNIS M. MUSE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION RE. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 17) AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 20)

I. INTRODUCTION

Pro Se Plaintiff, Dennis M. Muse, instituted the present action by filing a complaint in civil action against Defendant, United States Department of Education ("Department of Education") on February 18, 2009 (Doc. No. 1-1). The complaint alleges that beginning in June 2008, the Department of Education employed a collection agency to recover student loans made to Plaintiff between 1982-1983 which Plaintiff contends were discharged by a bankruptcy court on October 27, 1987. (Doc. No. 1-1, 2). Plaintiff alleges that the Department of Education's attempts to recover the loan principal and interest violates due process and ex post facto provisions of the Constitution, constitutes harassment and stalking in violation of Title 60, and constitutes intentional infliction of emotion distress. (Doc. No. 1-1, 4).

Before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 17). Defendant argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction as Plaintiff fails to identify any statutory authority that would waive the Department of Education's sovereign immunity and that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies required under the tort and disability discharge regulations. Defendant argues any other claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Also before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 20). As ordered in a Text Order on February 18, 2010, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 20) and Notice of Possible Bases for jurisdiction (Doc. No. 19) are also deemed to constitute Plaintiff's response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 17).

For the following reasons, this Court will GRANT Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 17) and will DENY Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 20).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Motion to Dismiss For Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges a Federal court's subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A defendant may move to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) if the complaint does not allege sufficient grounds to establish subject matter jurisdiction on its face or by factually contesting the plaintiff's allegations that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Turicentro, S.A. v. American Airlines Inc., 3030 F.3d 293, 300 n. 4 (3d Cir. 2002).

The party asserting the existence of federal jurisdiction has the burden of proving that such jurisdiction exists in order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Northwest Airlines, 673 F.2d 700, 711 n.16 (3d Cir. 1982); Shepherdson v. Local Union No. 401, 823 F. Supp. 1245, 1248 (E.D. Pa. 1993). A court need not limit its inquiry to facts pled in the complaint, but "may inquire by affidavits or otherwise, into the facts as they exist." Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 735 n.4 (1947).

B. Motion to Dismiss For Failure to State a Claim

In light of the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.544 (2007), a complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). While Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), allowed dismissal of a claim only if "no set of facts" could support it, under Twombly, and most recently, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 2009 WL 1361536 (May 18, 2009), a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6) now "requires more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

In Iqbal, the Supreme Court held that a claim is facially plausible when its factual content allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. Marangos v. Swett, 2009 WL 1803264, *2 (3d Cir. 2009), citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 2009 WL 1361536, *12. The plausibility standard in Iqbal "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Swett, quoting Iqbal. While well-pleaded factual content is accepted as true for purposes of whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief, legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," are not entitled to an assumption of truth. Swett, quoting Iqbal, at *13. "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than a mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not 'show[n]' - 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court accepts all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construes all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Umland v. Planco Fin. Servs., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008)(citing Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006)). However, a court will not accept bald assertions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 215 (3d Cir. 2002); Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 n. 8 (3d Cir. 1997). A court is not required to consider legal conclusions; rather, it should determine whether the plaintiff should be permitted to offer evidence in support of the allegations. Maio v. Aetna, 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000). The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) seeks to promote judicial economy by eliminating unwarranted discovery and factfinding. United States ex. rel. Repko v. Guthrie Clinic, P.C., 557 F.Supp.2d 522, 525 (M.D. Pa. 2008). Therefore, a plaintiff must put forth sufficient facts that, when taken as true, suggest the required elements of a particular legal theory. See Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch., Inc., 522 F.3d 315 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Phillips, 515 F.3d at 224). Generally, this does not impose a heightened burden on the claimant above that already ...


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