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Ray v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 12, 2015



LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Magistrate Judge.


It is respectfully recommended that the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13) filed by Defendants, United States of American, David J. Hickton, Charles A Eberle, and Michael L. Ivory, be granted and the Complaint be dismissed with prejudice.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff, Douglas William Ray, is currently incarcerated in a federal correctional institution serving a ten-year sentence for conspiring to distribute crack cocaine. See Docket, Case No. 2:06-cr-159-5 (W.D.Pa.), Disposition. Proceeding pro se, Mr. Ray instituted this civil action on April 11, 2014 by filing a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which was initially denied, but subsequently granted on April 29, 2014 upon submission of the required documentation. The Complaint names as Defendants the United States of America, David J. Hickton, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and two Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Charles A. Eberle and Michael L. Ivory (hereinafter the "Government Defendants").

In the Complaint, Mr. Ray asserts claims against the Government Defendants for breach of contract, breach of duty, violations of his constitutional rights under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and promissory estoppel. In support of these claims, Mr. Ray alleges that on January 14, 2014, he and "Defendant entered into a contract for Tender & Set-off of the matter named United States of America v. Douglas William Ray, 2:06-Cr-159-5, for valuable consideration."[1] Compl., ¶1 (ECF No. 5). Mr. Ray alleges that he has attached a true and correct copy of this contract to his Complaint as Exhibit A.

Exhibit A consists of a "Notice of SetOff Accounts" dated December 20, 2013 and directed to the Internal Revenue Service (ECF No. 5-1 at 1); a "Private Note" in which Mr. Ray promises to pay the amount of $4, 000, 100.00 to the "United States of America Treasury" (ECF No. 5-1 at 2); an IRS 2012 Form 1040-V Payment Voucher in the amount of $4, 000, 100.00 submitted by Mr. Ray (ECF No. 5-1 at 3); a copy of the Judgment Including Sentence entered in Mr. Ray's criminal case at Case No.2:06-cr-159-005 (ECF No. 5-1 at 4-7); a "Letter of Instruction, Not Subject to Negotiability Accepted for Value" dated December 20, 2013, Re: Notice-Enclosed Tender for Setoff in the Case/Claim Douglas William Ray, #2:06-cr-159-05, directed to "To Whom it may Concern" (ECF No. 5-1 at 8); a "Notice of Tender for Setoff" directed to the Government Defendants regarding United States v. Douglas William Ray, Case No. 2:06-cr-159-5, undated (ECF No. 5-1 at 9); and a "Request Regarding a Statement of Account" directed to the Government Defendants regarding his aforementioned criminal case, dated January 10, 2014 (ECF No. 5-1 at 10); an undated Notice of Dishonor and Opportunity to Cure from Mr. Ray and directed to the Government Defendants (ECF No. 5-1 at 45); and a Notice of Default directed to the Government Defendants by Mr. Ray and certificate of service indicating that service of the Notice of Default was made on the Government Defendants on February 12, 2014 (ECF No. 5-1 at 48-49).[2]

According to Mr. Ray, under this alleged contract, the "Defendant agreed to: Set-off[, ] Full Settlement and Closure of the above Account by receipt of Tender of Payment Note Number 525-729." Compl., ¶2. Mr. Ray further alleges that "Defendant agreed to return the instrument if it contained any defects, or is incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate or out of harmony with public policy, the defined laws established by Congress, the Constitution of the United States or any applicable State, Federal, Commercial or Banking laws in 10 days of receipt therein." Id. Mr. Ray also contends that the "Defendant agreed to adjust the balance of the account to zero, reflecting the ledgering of said Tender." Also according to Mr. Ray, "[i]ncluded in this communication was a request regarding a Statement of Account, pursuant to Commercial Code §9-210, as a record authentication by the debtor requesting that the recipient approve or correct the Statement." Id. Mr. Ray contends that the contract gave the recipient (i.e., the Defendant) 14 days to comply with this request and provide an authenticated record. Id.

Mr. Ray contends that he has performed all the terms and conditions of the contract that he was required to perform, Compl., ¶3, but alleges that Defendant breached the contract by failing or refusing to (1) ensure the settlement and full closure of account: United States of America v. Douglas W. Ray, 2:06-Cr-159-5; (2) adjust the balance of the account to zero to reflect ledgering of tender; (3) provide an updated statement of account reflecting that the Account has a zero balance; and (4) ensure that Judgment in 2:06-Cr-159-5 was discharged accordingly, Compl., ¶4. Mr. Ray further contends that he demanded that Defendant fulfill its obligations on the contract but Defendant has failed and refused to do so. Id. at ¶5.

As a result of the Government Defendants' alleged breach of contract, Mr. Ray seeks damages in the amount of $1, 014, 515, which represents treble the amount of base damages of $338, 172. Id. at ¶6 & Prayer at ¶A. In addition, Mr. Ray also requests prejudgment interest from January 23, 2014 at the rate of six percent, $100 for the cost of this action, and all other relief that the Court deems just and proper. Id., Prayer, ¶¶B-D.

The Government Defendants have now moved for dismissal of this action with prejudice (ECF No. 13) on a number of grounds. Plaintiff has filed a Brief in Response to the Government's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15). Thus, the motion is ripe for disposition.

B. The Prison Litigation Reform Act

The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub.L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires a district court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2)) or seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity (28 U.S.C. § 1915A). The Court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A (b). This action is subject to sua sponte ...

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