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Whitaker v. Barksdale Air Force Base

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

February 11, 2015



ELIZABETH FOOTE, Magistrate Judge.

Before this Court are Motions To Dismiss filed by the Defendants, Barksdale Air Force Base ("BAFB"), the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), the United States Attorney's Office ("U.S. Attorney"), and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections-Louisiana State Police ("Louisiana State Police"). [Record Documents 3 and 6]. The Defendants, in two separate motions, seek to dismiss the Complaint filed pro se by the Plaintiff, Jacqueline L. Whitaker, which accuses these federal and state agencies of numerous constitutional and statutory violations, including violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("ECPA"). [Record Document 1]. The Louisiana State Police seeks to dismiss the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and in the alternative, it seeks dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Rule 12(b)(4), Rule 12(b)(5), and Rule 12(e). [Record Document 6]. While the Motion To Dismiss filed by BAFB, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney, collectively referred to as the "federal Defendants, " argues for dismissal principally under Rule 12(b)(6), the motion also seeks dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[1] [Record Document 3]. The Plaintiff then filed Responses in opposition to each Motion To Dismiss. [Record Documents 5 and 8].[2] For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the Defendants' Motions To Dismiss [Record Documents 3 and 6], and the Plaintiff's claims against the Defendants are DISMISSED.

I. Background

The Plaintiff alleges a variety of constitutional and statutory violations by federal and state agencies and requests primarily monetary relief for these violations. Record Document 1, p. 2. According to the Complaint, the case appears to be precipitated by a local parking dispute with a neighbor, Bob Coates ("Coates"), who is a retired airman operating a day care facility with his wife out of his home, which is located across the street from the Plaintiff's house. Id., at p. 1. After the Plaintiff wrote letters concerning the use of her driveway and the traffic congestion caused by Coates' day care, the Complaint explains that Coates informed officials at BAFB that the Plaintiff was responsible for "terrorizing his family." Id.

It was at this time, the Plaintiff alleges, that BAFB officials obtained warrants to place the Plaintiff under surveillance and requested the assistance of the other Defendants, [3] including the FBI and the Louisiana State Police. Id. With the FBI's approval, unmanned drones, helicopters, and agents from both federal and state agencies began conducting surveillance of the Plaintiff beginning in January 2011. Id.

The Plaintiff further explains that tracking and listening devices were placed without her consent in a used car that she purchased in November 2011. Id., at p. 2. The Complaint then goes on to assert that the Plaintiff's home was searched over 100 times between July 2013 and July 2014, including a July 10, 2014, incident when federal agents reportedly entered her attic to install monitoring devices, damaging the attic's electrical wiring. Id. As a result of this alleged surveillance and property damage, the Plaintiff now seeks monetary relief for the value of her car, the cost of repairing her attic's electrical wiring, and $3.5 million in punitive damages. Id.[4]

II. The Defendants' Motions To Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Courts are instructed to first consider jurisdictional challenges raised by a defendant, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), before addressing any claim against the merits of a complaint. See Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). As such, this Court will analyze the Defendants' jurisdictional claims before addressing their Rule 12(b)(6) claims or any other alternative grounds for dismissal.

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Rule 12(b)(1) permits a party to assert that a plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed for "lack of subject-matter jurisdiction." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A case is properly dismissed under this rule when a court lacks either the statutory or constitutional authority to hear the case. Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187 (2d Cir. 1996)).[5] When considering jurisdictional challenges, "the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist." Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161. Courts are to accept the veracity of the facts and accusations set forth in a complaint, and any motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(1) should only be granted when "it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief." Id. (citing Home Builders, 143 F.3d at 1010); see Choice Inc. of Tex. v. Greenstein, 691 F.3d 710, 714 (5th Cir. 2012).

B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction over the Louisiana State Police

The Louisiana State Police's primary argument is that the Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed based on the protections of the Eleventh Amendment, as it is a state agency that has neither consented to suit nor has Congress abrogated its state sovereign immunity. Record Document 6-1. The Eleventh Amendment bars suits for monetary relief by citizens in federal court against either states or their agencies, unless that state has waived its immunity and consented to suit. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); Champagne v. Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, 188 F.3d 312, 313 (5th Cir. 1999). Similarly, suits brought against state officials or agents are also barred when the state is the "real, substantial party in interest, " regardless of whether a plaintiff seeks damages or injunctive relief. Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101 (quoting Ford Motor Co. v. Dep't of Treasury of Ind., 323 U.S. 459, 464 (1945)).

Of course, there are limits to this immunity. When a state official's actions are not taken on behalf of a state or a state agency, a plaintiff may seek injunctive relief to prohibit the continued impermissible activity of that official so long as the plaintiff does not seek retroactive monetary relief for it. Id. at 102 (citations omitted). A state may also waive its sovereign immunity, which permits it to be subject to suit, whether in state or federal court. See id. at 99 & n.9. Lastly, Congress may abrogate a state's sovereign immunity to authorize a suit to be brought in federal court against a non-consenting state to enforce the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Kimel v. Fla. Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 79-80 (2000).

i. The Alleged Violations of the Plaintiff's Constitutional Rights by the Louisiana State Police

The Louisiana State Police argues that the Plaintiff's constitutional claims must be dismissed because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). Although not explicitly pled in her Complaint, the Plaintiff's Responses indicate that her constitutional claims against the Louisiana State Police appear to be made pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. See Record Document 5, p. 3, and Record Document 8, pp. 1-2. The Plaintiff, in support of these allegations, claims that the Louisiana State Police assisted BAFB officials in placing her ...

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