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Wood v. Secretary of Army

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 29, 2018

SEAN E. WOOD, Plaintiff

          Mannion Judge


          Susan E. Schwab Chief United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction.

         The plaintiff Sean E. Wood is suing the Secretary of the Army claiming that he was wrongly subject to court-martial proceedings and wrongly discharged from the Army. He also contends that the Secretary failed adequately to investigate the death of a soldier on a firing range. Both Wood and the Secretary have filed a motion for summary judgment. Because Wood cannot proceed on his claim with regard to the Secretary's investigation of the death of the other soldier and because Wood's other claims are barred by the statute of limitations, we recommend that the Court deny Wood's motion and grant the Secretary's motion.

         II. Background and Procedural History.

         Wood, proceeding pro se, began this action by filing a complaint in August of 2017, against the Secretary[1] under sections 702, 704, and 706 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Wood alleged that he was wrongfully accused, punished, and discharged in violation of army regulations, and he asked the Court to restore him “[t]o good standing.” Doc. 1 at 2. The complaint, however, contained no factual allegations concerning the basis of Wood's claims.

         On November 6, 2017, Wood filed an amended complaint asserting that he is adding causes of action. He points to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 as the basis of the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction. In addition to again citing the APA, Wood cites 28 U.S.C. § 1361 (Mandamus), the Fourteenth Amendment; 18 U.S.C § 241; and 42 U.S.C. § 1985.[2] He alleges that he was in the United States Army from 1981 to 1985. Wood contends that he was subject to illegal summary court-martial actions. He also contends that he was wrongfully discharged in violation of Army regulations. And he contends that the Secretary's lack of investigation of his “claims since 1984 has allowed an officer in its charge to get away with murder, perjury, and a hate crime.” Doc. 7 at 2. Like the complaint, the amended complaint does not contain allegations explaining the factual basis for his claims.[3]Wood asks this Court to review the “illegal court actions and subsequent illegal discharge, ” and to “remove all illegal court actions and discharge and grant the plaintiff the proper relief in accordance to Army regulations.” Id.[4] He also asks the Court to review “the wrongful death of a soldier that is also still suffering from the lies told.” Id.[5]

         On November 6, 2017, Wood filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement of facts, [6] and exhibits. We deemed Wood's motion for summary judgment withdrawn because Wood failed to file a supporting brief within 14 days. Wood later filed a motion to renew his motion for summary judgment. We granted that motion and construed it in part as a brief in support of his motion for summary judgment.

         In the meantime, the Secretary filed a motion to dismiss and/or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, a brief, a statement of material facts, and documents in support of the motion. After Wood filed numerous documents in opposition to that motion, we directed him to file one, comprehensive brief in opposition to the Secretary's motion and one, comprehensive response to the Secretary's statement of material facts. Wood then filed a response to the Secretary's motion, which included a section in response to the Secretary's statement of material facts as well as exhibits. The Secretary filed a reply brief. Without seeking leave of court to do so, Wood then filed a document titled “Additional Pleadings of the Plaintiff with Supporting Evidence.” See Doc. 41. We consider this document as a sur-reply brief, and we will consider it.

         III. The Secretary's Motion to Dismiss and/or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment.

         A. Wood's Claim regarding the Investigation into the Death of the Other Soldier.

         The Secretary contends that the Court should dismiss Wood's claim for injunctive relief in the form of an investigation into the death of the soldier on the firing range because he lacks standing to pursue such a claim and because sovereign immunity bars such a claim.

         Wood's claim regarding the investigation rests on a fatally flawed premise, i.e., that he has a right or interest in the discipline or investigation of others. A private citizen, however, “lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another.” Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973); see also Town of Castle Rock v. Gonzalez, 545 U.S. 748, 768 (2005) (“[T]he benefit that a third party may receive from having someone else arrested for a crime generally does not trigger protections under the Due Process Clause, neither in its procedural nor in its ‘substantive' manifestations.”). And “[t]here is no statutory or common law right, much less a constitutional right, to an investigation.” Mitchell v. McNeil, 487 F.3d 374, 378 (6th Cir. 2007); see also Fuchs v. Mercer Cnty., 260 Fed.Appx. 472, 475 (3d Cir. 2008). Wood thus cannot bring a claim against the Secretary for the alleged inadequate investigation of the other soldier's death or to compel the Secretary to conduct a further investigation.[7]

         B. Wood's Other Claims.

         The Secretary contends that the statute of limitations bars Wood's other claims.[8] Because the Secretary relies on documents outside the pleadings in support of his statute-of-limitations argument, we consider that argument under the summary-judgment standards.

         1. Summary Judgment Standards.

         The Secretary moves for summary judgment under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a ‘genuine dispute as to any material fact' and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary ...

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