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Flores v. Pompeo

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 27, 2019

JAVIER FLORES, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants - Appellees

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

          Before JOLLY, HO, and ENGELHARDT, Circuit Judges.

          JAMES C. HO, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         Javier Flores claims he is a United States citizen based on his birth in the United States. When Flores attempted to renew his United States passport, however, his application was denied. So he filed suit in the Southern District of Texas seeking a declaration of citizenship under 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a). The district court dismissed his suit for lack of jurisdiction, based on insufficient evidence that Flores actually resides in Texas. The district court also rejected his claim for injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act on the ground that § 1503(a) provides an adequate remedy. We affirm.

          I.

         Javier Flores has a birth certificate indicating that he was born in McAllen, Texas, in October 1962. But his parents also registered his birth in Mexico, so that, according to Flores, he could attend school there.[1]

         In 2015, Flores sought to renew his U.S. passport, but the State Department denied his application and revoked his existing passport. Flores filed suit in the Southern District of Texas, asserting claims under 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a) and the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706, and seeking a judicial declaration of his United States citizenship. See Flores v. United States, No. 7:16-cv-00488 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 13, 2016).

         The question of where Flores was residing quickly overshadowed the litigation. This question is of primary importance because § 1503(a) requires actions to "be filed in the district court of the United States for the district in which such person resides or claims a residence, and jurisdiction over such officials in such cases is conferred upon those courts." Following limited jurisdictional discovery, Flores voluntarily dismissed that suit.

         Later that year, Flores re-filed in the Southern District of Texas, claiming that he "has his residence within the jurisdiction of [the] Court." The government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), (3), (6). It argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction over Flores's § 1503(a) claim because he resided in Kansas, not Texas. And it argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over Flores's APA claim because § 1503(a) provided an adequate alternative avenue of relief.

         The parties submitted evidence attempting to establish the district in which Flores resided. The defendants showed that, in August 2015, Flores had changed his address from Texas to Kansas, when he began employment at a university in Emporia. In July 2016, he and his wife purchased a home in Emporia, which they still own. And online university records showed that Flores was scheduled to teach classes on-campus in Emporia in the spring and fall of 2018.

         Flores did not deny this evidence. Instead, he asserted that he leased apartments and was physically present in Texas from May 2017 to December 23, 2017, during which time he filed this lawsuit. He attempted to establish his presence in Texas by submitting lease documents for the Texas apartments and credit card statements showing purchases in Texas during that time period.

         The district court granted the defendants' motion and dismissed Flores's complaint without prejudice. The court found that Flores had not met his burden of proving residency in the Southern District of Texas for purposes of § 1503(a). The court also denied jurisdiction over Flores's APA claim because § 1503(a) provided Flores an adequate alternative remedy.

         II.

         We review a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) de novo. See Musselwhite v. State Bar ...


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