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Jackson v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 19, 2019

THELMA JACKSON, GERALD MCDOWELL, GESSIAH MCDOWELL, AND STYLEZ JACKSON
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, VITAL RECORDS OF NEW ORLEANS, BATON ROUGE GENERAL HOSPITAL, AND RHANDI WISE

          NOTICE

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Please take notice that the attached Magistrate Judge's Report has been filed with the Clerk of the U.S. District Court.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), you have 14 days after being served with the attached report to file written objections to the proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations set forth therein. Failure to file written objections to the proposed findings, conclusions and recommendations within 14 days after being served will bar you, except upon grounds of plain error, from attacking on appeal the unobjected-to proposed factual findings and legal conclusions accepted by the District Court.

         ABSOLUTELY NO EXTENSION OF TIME SHALL BE GRANTED TO FILE WRITTEN OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT.

         MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         Before the Court is the Complaint[1] filed by pro se Plaintiffs Thelma Jackson (“Jackson”) and Gerald McDowell (“Gerald”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), individually and on behalf of their minor children, Stylez Jackson and Gessiah McDowell (“Gessiah”). Following a hearing held pursuant to Spears v. McCotter, [2] and for the reasons set forth herein, it is recommended that Plaintiffs' suit be dismissed without prejudice.

         I. Background

         On August 28, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against the United States Postal Service (“USPS”), Vital Records of New Orleans (“Vital Records”), Baton Rouge General Hospital (the “Hospital”), and Rhandi Wise (“Wise”).[3] That same day, Plaintiffs filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which was granted. A hearing was also set pursuant to Spears v. McCotter[4](“Spears hearing”), to determine if any or all of Plaintiffs' claims were frivolous and subject to dismissal.[5] At the Spears hearing, Plaintiffs presented information regarding the basis for their claims. At the conclusion of the hearing, Plaintiffs were advised that a report would be issued with a recommendation to the district judge that Plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed, but that Plaintiffs would have fourteen days to submit objections to the report. Plaintiffs were also advised that the district judge would make the final decision and issue a ruling as to whether Plaintiffs' claims would be allowed to proceed.

         II. Plaintiffs' Claims

         Plaintiffs' primary claim is that their USPS-issued post office box is being tampered with/is being accessed by individuals whom Plaintiffs aver do not have permission to access it in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1703 and the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In support of this allegation, Plaintiffs specifically point to the following events in their Complaint. First, Plaintiffs allege that they have not received Gessiah's birth certificate, notwithstanding hat Gessiah's was born May 28, 2019. Plaintiffs allege that they have contacted Vital Records but keep receiving “inconsistent answers” regarding Gessiah's birth certificate. Plaintiffs further allege that the Hospital has advised Plaintiffs that it is unclear why the doctor who delivered Gessiah, i.e., Wise, did not sign Gessiah's birth certificate until July 2, 2019.[6]

         Second, Plaintiffs claim that the correspondence enclosing Gessiah's social security card was opened when Plaintiffs retrieved it from their post office box.[7] They further assert that an unnamed USPS representative advised them that “Kimberly Jackson” and “Courtney Jackson”[8]were “associated” with their post office box and asked if Plaintiffs executed a “family change of address, ” which Plaintiffs deny.[9] Plaintiffs argue that they have notified USPS on several occasions that their mail has been tampered with and vital records have been withheld from them, to no avail. At the Spears hearing, Plaintiffs stated that they had also notified law enforcement about this issue.

         In connection with these claims, Plaintiffs demand the following: (1) an investigation into the allegations discussed above, (2) that the USPS search for mail addressed to Plaintiffs and their minor children from 2017 until the present, and (3) $500, 000 in damages for the destruction/withholding of and delay in Plaintiffs' receipt of their mail. Plaintiffs also demand that, if any USPS representative engages in retaliatory conduct, or causes physical or mental harm or injury to Plaintiffs, that such person be sentenced “to life in prison and 500, 000 x 3 in monetary damages.”[10]

         III. Law and Analysis

         A. Plaintiffs Have Not Established That This Court Has Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         During the Spears hearing, the Court explained that, unlike state district courts, which are courts of general jurisdiction and may therefore hear all types of claims, federal courts may only entertain those cases over which there is federal subject matter jurisdiction. Federal subject matter jurisdiction may be established in two ways. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over “civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treatises of the United States.”[11] This Court also has subject matter jurisdiction over civil actions where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00 exclusive of interest and costs and the parties are completely diverse (i.e., all plaintiffs are citizens of a different state than all defendants).[12] The burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting it (here, Plaintiffs).[13] A court may raise on its own at any time the issue of whether subject matter jurisdiction exists.[14]

         Plaintiffs' Complaint raises possible criminal claims involving mail destruction/tampering under 18 U.S.C. §1703.[15] The Court advised Plaintiffs during the Spears hearing that they may report those claims to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District for potential prosecution, but that Plaintiffs do not have a private cause of action under a criminal statute.[16]Likewise, Plaintiffs asserted no facts or allegations in support of a claim under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As Plaintiffs' Complaint does not assert a federal civil claim, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[17] While there is some indication that Plaintiffs' allegations satisfy the amount in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, [18] Plaintiffs have not adequately alleged their own citizenship or the citizenship of Defendants. During the Spears hearing, however, Plaintiffs confirmed that they are citizens of Louisiana. It appears that at least one of the Defendants is also a Louisiana citizen.[19] As Plaintiffs are not completely diverse from Defendants, the Court also does not have subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         “A federal court must presume that an action lies outside its limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction to entertain an action rests with the party asserting jurisdiction.”[20] “A district court can dismiss an action sua sponte for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction…even where the defendant makes no responsive pleadings and does not move to dismiss for want of subject-matter jurisdiction.”[21] Because Plaintiffs have not met their burden of establishing that this Court has federal subject matter jurisdiction, this case should be dismissed without prejudice.

         Furthermore, the United States Postal Service and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, of which Vital Records is a division, may also be immune from suit in this Court based on principles of sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment. “The Postal Service enjoys federal sovereign immunity absent a waiver.”[22] The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is an arm of the state[23] such that Plaintiffs' claims against Vital Records may also be barred by sovereign immunity.[24]

         B. Plaintiffs Fail To State a Claim for Relief Under of 18 U.S.C. ยง 1703 and the 8th ...


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