United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Kent Bramlett, the Portland Mint, and Ronnie Shahar have
brought claims alleging that they were improperly prevented
from submitting several shipments of bent and broken coins to
the U.S. Mint's Mutilated Coin Redemption Program prior
to the Mint's suspension of the entire program in late
2015. Plaintiffs assert that the Mint refused to
accept two shipments of coins, and that another four coin
shipments were unlawfully detained by customs officials for
several months, thereby preventing Plaintiffs from submitting
those coins before the Coin Redemption Program was suspended.
In pursuit of either an order requiring the Mint to accept
their coins or an award of damages to compensate them for the
lost opportunity to submit the coins, Plaintiffs have filed
suit under the Administrative Procedure Act
(“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.;
the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; 42
U.S.C. § 1983; and the Mandamus and Venue Act, 28 U.S.C.
1361, against the United States, the U.S. Department of the
Treasury, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S.
Mint, the U.S. Bureau of Border and Customs Protection
Service, the leaders of all four agencies, and the unnamed
officers who caused the detention of the coins. Defendants
have filed motions to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' claims.
Defendants' motions shall be granted.
Mutilated Coin Redemption Program
over 100 years, the United States Mint (the
“Mint”) has maintained a Mutilated Coin
Redemption Program (the “Coin Redemption
Program”) by which broken or bent U.S. coins may be
submitted to the Mint in exchange for payment. From 1999
until the program's suspension in November 2015, the Mint
accepted broken and bent coins for redemption based on weight
and denomination. See 31 C.F.R. § 100.11. The
Coin Redemption Program is funded by the United States Mint
Public Enterprise Fund (“PEF”), which is fueled
by receipts from Mint operations and any borrowing which the
Secretary of the Treasury deems necessary to operate the
Mint. See 31 U.S.C. § 5136.
light of concerns about the submission of counterfeit coins,
the Mint temporarily suspended the Coin Redemption Program in
November 2015. One year later, the Mint issued a Notice
requesting comment on the development of new regulations to
govern the program with additional anti-counterfeiting
safeguards. The Notice indicated that the program will be
resumed once the new regulations are established, which has
not yet occurred.
Plaintiffs' Rejected and Detained Shipments
have been submitting mutilated coins gathered from sources in
China and the United States to the Coin Redemption Program
since 2009. Until late 2014, each submission proceeded
smoothly, with Plaintiffs submitting broken and bent coins to
either the Mint in Philadelphia or to a designated smelter in
Iowa and receiving payment based on the weight and
denomination of coins submitted. Beginning in late 2014,
however, Plaintiffs began to incur difficulties with their
submissions, and throughout 2015 several of their shipments
of coins from China were detained upon arrival in the United
States by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
was the first Plaintiff to face a barrier to mutilated coin
redemption. In November 2014, he submitted a large shipment
of coins to the Mint in Philadelphia. In early 2015, he was
informed that the processing of his payment for that shipment
had been delayed by the Department of Homeland Security
pending “determination of the source of the
Bramlett's November 2014 shipment was awaiting redemption
payment, Portland Mint attempted to arrange the submission of
large shipments of coins that were imported on February 12,
2015 and March 13, 2015. Although Portland Mint had
previously submitted several redemptions and had been invited
to continue submitting coins, Plaintiffs allege that the
Mint's communication regarding submission logistics
became unclear and evasive in early 2015, ultimately
preventing the submission of these early 2015 shipments.
their difficulties with submitting coins in late 2014 and
early 2015, Plaintiffs continued to import mutilated coins
with the intention of submitting them to the Mint. Beginning
in April 2015, however, CBP began to detain Plaintiffs'
shipments at the border. The first detention occurred when
CBP held a shipment imported by Portland Mint in Seattle on
April 19, 2015 “for further examination.” Two
weeks later, Portland Mint's next shipment was also
detained in Seattle, again with the designation “held
for examination.” The following week, CBP officers in
Los Angeles detained a shipment imported by Bramlett citing
“possible admissibility issues (counterfeit
coins).” Finally, a third shipment of Portland
Mint's was detained, this time in Tacoma, again to be
“held for further examination.” Portland Mint
filed a protest of the detention of the May 1, 2015 shipment,
which was denied on the grounds that the coins were
“not deemed excluded; issue non-protestable. 19 U.S.C.
§ 1499 does not apply based on determination of
admissibility being vested in an agency other than
CBP.” When the Coin Redemption program was suspended in
November 2015, all of the detained shipments remained in CBP
original Complaints sought payment for the November 2014
shipment (to Bramlett), the release of the detained
shipments, and a resumption of the Coin Redemption Program.
In September 2016, the parties reached an agreement whereby
Bramlett was paid for the November 2014 shipment, and the
shipments in CBP custody were released to Plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs have been unable to submit those coins (or the
February and March 2015 shipments) for redemption, however,
due to the ongoing suspension of the Coin Redemption Program.
They filed an Amended Complaint on October 31, 2016, seeking
a resumption of the program or compensation for the missed
opportunity to submit their coins.
The Defendants and Claims
have named four groups of Defendants: (1) the United States;
(2) the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Bureau of
the Mint, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the
U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Service
(together, the “Agencies”); (3) the officials in
charge of each of the Agencies - Secretary of the Treasury
Steven Mnuchin, Acting Principal Deputy Director of the U.S.
Mint David Motl, Secretary of Homeland Security John F.
Kelly, and Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border
Protection Kevin K. McAleenan - in their official capacities
(together, the “Officials”); and (4) John Does
1-10, unnamed persons sued in their individual capacities
allegedly responsible for causing the investigation and
detention of Plaintiffs' coin shipments.
Amended Complaints contain five counts. Count I is a claim
under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5
U.S.C. § 701 et seq., challenging the
suspension of the Coin Redemption Program and the refusal of
Plaintiffs' submissions on both statutory and
constitutional grounds. Counts II and III are constitutional
claims under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, respectively,
arising from CBP's detention of Plaintiffs' coins.
Count IV is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Officials and John Does 1-10, also arising from the detention
of Plaintiffs' coins. Count V is a claim under the
Mandamus and Venue Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1361, seeking a writ
declaring that Plaintiffs' constitutional rights have
been violated and awarding compensation for the damages
caused by the detention of their coins and their subsequent
inability to submit them for redemption. Except for Count IV,
all of the claims are asserted against all Defendants.
motions do not specify whether they were filed under Rule
12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6), but the motions present arguments
concerning both subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to
state claims. In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, “a court must
first determine whether the movant presents a facial or
factual attack.” In re Schering Plough Corp.
Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action Litig., 678 F.3d
235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012). Defendants' Rule 12(b)(1)
arguments concern subject-matter jurisdiction and rely solely
on the allegations in the Amended Complaints. They are, thus,
facial challenges, which are governed by the same standard of
review as a motion under Rule 12(b)(6). Id.
Accordingly, the motions will be analyzed based on the facts
set forth in the Amended Complaints construed in the light
most favorable to Plaintiffs. Santomenno ex rel. John
Hancock Trust v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.),
768 F.3d 284, 290 (3d Cir. 2014) (in considering a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must construe the facts
and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff).
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, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “In light of Twombly, it is no longer
sufficient to allege mere elements of a cause of action;
instead a complaint must allege facts suggestive of the
proscribed conduct.” Great W. Mining & Mineral
Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 177 (3d Cir.
2010) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). A
plaintiff need not show that success on his or her claims is
probable, but must assert “‘enough facts to raise
a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of'” each necessary element in a claim.
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234
(3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556
(2007)). However, “‘[w]here a complaint pleads
facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's
liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of entitlement to relief.'”
Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). At bottom, the
question is not whether the claimant “will ultimately
prevail . . . but whether his complaint [is] sufficient to
cross the federal court's threshold.” Skinner
v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 529-30 (2011) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted).
argue that sovereign immunity, which bars suits against the
United States and its agencies absent a waiver of that
immunity, precludes all of Plaintiffs' claims against the
United States, the Agencies, and the Officials. See
F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994). They also
argue that the claims against John Does 1-10 have not been
supported with sufficient factual allegations to survive a
motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs respond that the APA provides
for a ...