United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a motion to reconsider this Court's
dismissal of various claims related to Defendant's
allegedly wrongful denial of veterans' benefits to
Plaintiff George Jackson ("Jackson"). [Record
Document 14]. Defendant Mark Bologna ("Bologna")
has responded in opposition; Jackson has not replied. [Record
Document 15]. Because Jackson seeks reconsideration using
arguments that this Court has already rejected, his motion
[Record Document 14] is DENIED.
filed a motion to dismiss all of Jackson's claims.
[Record Document 4]. The Court granted the motion in part and
denied it in part, dismissing all claims except those under
the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). [Record
Document 13]. The Court gave Jackson until November 14, 2018
to amend his complaint to properly allege his FOIA claim.
Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "any
order or decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer
than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer
than all the parties . . . may be revised at any time before
the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all
the parties' rights and liabilities." Fed.R.Civ.P.
54(b). Because the Court partially denied Bologna's
motion to dismiss, final judgment has not been entered on all
claims, and so this Court has the power to alter its order on
Bologna's motion to dismiss.
Court declines to exercise its authority in this manner. This
Court's memorandum ruling has already explained why
Jackson's claims must be dismissed. [Record Document 13].
Jackson's current motion presents the Court with no new
arguments. Nevertheless, because Jackson is representing
himself without the benefit of legal training or advice, the
Court will offer a few words by way of explanation.
refers to a court's power to hear certain kinds of
claims. If a court lacks jurisdiction to hear a claim, then
that court cannot do so even if the claim is otherwise valid.
For example, in some places there are "family
courts" that can only hear matters such as divorce,
child custody, and child support. This hypothetical family
court lacks jurisdiction to hear other sort of claims, such
as a claim arising from injuries sustained in a car accident.
A person suffering such injuries would have a valid personal
injury claim, but that claim could not be adjudicated by the
family court because the family court lacks jurisdiction to
hear a personal injury claim. The same thing is true here. As
the Court explained in its prior memorandum ruling, federal
district courts such as this one lack jurisdiction to
consider challenges to veterans' benefits determinations.
Hence, even if Jackson is entitled to benefits, this Court is
not the proper forum in which to vindicate his right to them.
also appears to misunderstand the binding effect of cases
decided by various federal courts. Federal courts exist in a
hierarchical structure. At the top is the United States
Supreme Court. Below the Supreme Court are various courts of
appeals, including the Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit, which issued Cushman v. Shinseki, 576 F.3d
1290 (Fed. Cir. 2009),  and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth
Circuit, author of Zuspann v. Brown, 60 F.3d 1156
(5th Cir. 1995). Below the courts of appeals are district
courts, such as this Court. Each district court is directly
bound by the holdings of the appeals court immediately above
it. The holdings of other appeals courts do not bind that
district court. Thus, this Court is bound by the holdings of
the Fifth Circuit and not bound by the holdings of the
Federal Circuit. Because neither the Fifth Circuit nor the
Supreme Court have abrogated Zuspann, that case
remains the law in the Fifth Circuit. Because
Zuspann holds that district courts lack jurisdiction
to consider claims against a Veterans Affairs administrator
in his official capacity, this Court is bound by that
decision and must conclude that it lacks jurisdiction to
consider any claims against Bologna in his official capacity.
also misunderstands his ability to maintain a cause of action
against Bologna in the latter's individual capacity.
Jackson believes that his cause of action against Bologna
arises by implication from two provisions of the Federal Tort
Claims Act ("FTCA"). [Record Document 14 at 7-8]
Under the so-called "exclusiveness of remedy"
provision and its exception for constitutional torts:
(b)(1) The remedy against the United States provided by
sections 1346(b) and 2672 of this title for . . . personal
injury or death arising or resulting from the negligent or
wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government
while acting within the scope of his office or employment is
exclusive of any other civil action or proceeding for money
damages by reason of the same subject matter against the
employee whose act or omission gave rise to the claim ....
Any other civil action or proceeding for money damages
arising out of or relating to the same subject matter against
the employee ... is precluded .... (2) Paragraph (1) does not
extend or apply to a civil action against an employee of the
(A) which is brought for a violation of the Constitution of
the United States ....
28 U.S.C. § 2679. Jackson now argues that "[s]ince
Paragraph 1 of 2679 specifically states 'a civil action
is precluded' when 'exclusiveness of remedy'
applies it mandates that a civil action is enabled when
'exclusiveness of remedy' does not apply."
[Record Document 14 at 8]. In making this argument, Jackson
has committed a logical fallacy. It is not true that the fact
that FTCA does not preclude Jackson's cause of action
against Bologna means that Jackson has a cause of action
against Bologna (whether under FTCA or under some other legal
motion to reconsider [Record Document 14] is
DENIED. As discussed in this Court's
original memorandum ruling, there is another forum authorized
to adjudicate claims regarding Bologna's allegedly
wrongful denial of benefits (whether under the theory that
Bologna incorrectly ...