criminal activity. Thus, even if this case proceeded to trial, plaintiffs would have extreme difficulty establishing the requisite injury necessary to sustain a jury verdict.
B. No Nexus Between Plaintiffs' Alleged Injury And Defendants' Activities
Even if this court found that NAP suffered a cognizable injury, it could not be directly traced to the 1988 FBI investigation. Based on the information contained in the complaint, any stigmatization which NAP suffers could be traced to a myriad of statements and publications made by private individuals and organizations, many of which preceded the FBI investigation.
In its complaint, NAP admitted that although the FBI has investigated Dr. Newman's activities, "opponents . . . have attempted to delegitimize his positions, preempt objective and scientific debate about his ideas and activities, and intimidate persons from considering his views or associating with him or organizations with which he is affiliated, by describing such organizations as 'cults,' labeling Dr. Newman a 'cult leader,' and calling persons associated with him 'Newmanites.'" Comp. P 11. This language strongly suggests that Dr. Newman's views have long been subjected to public criticism, a fate not uncommon among public figures.
NAP also accuses the FBI of supporting the attacks made against it by other organizations by accumulating publications written by private organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL), the Political Research Associates (PRA) and several newspapers, including the Village Voice, the Boston Phoenix and the New York Post. Comp. PP 29-36. In short, NAP claims that "for 'several' years," these private organizations "have published articles explicitly or implicitly applying the 'cult' label to plaintiffs," and the FBI has given "credibility to the 'private findings' by incorporating the reports into files that are obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by journalists and others." Comp. PP 35-36 (emphasis supplied).
It is no secret that a major source of any investigative fieldwork consists of obtaining articles and publications on the subject of the investigation. Virtually all of the "private" findings that NAP has complained of constitute "public" information that is available to any American citizen. Just like the information reviewed by the Laird Court, this information is "nothing more than [information that] a good newspaper reporter would be able to gather by attendance at public meetings and . . . clipping . . . articles from publications available on any newsstand." 408 U.S. at 8, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 161. Accordingly, plaintiffs have failed to persuasively trace their "alleged injuries" directly to defendants in this action.
C. Injury Sought Does Not Redress A Specific Injury
As stated previously, plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that "defendants' description of a group of persons as a 'cult,' or its use of such a description as the predicate or justification for investigative activities, use of force, criminal prosecution or government regulation is a violation of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States." Comp. P 1. Again, plaintiffs have failed to establish the third element comprising constitutional standing not only because the relief requested fails to redress their alleged injuries but because it goes far beyond virtually all of the allegations raised in the complaint.
Before a court can find a justiciable controversy, "the plaintiff who seeks to invoke the judicial power [must] stand to profit in some personal interest." Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. at 38, 48 L. Ed. 2d at 461. It is not enough that the requested relief merely addresses some perceived wrong to society. Laird, 408 U.S. at 11, 33 L. Ed. 2d at 163-64. Instead, there must be "a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision" and that the prospect of obtaining relief from the favorable ruling will not be too speculative. Florida General Contractors, 124 L. Ed. 2d at 596.
Here, NAP's requested relief, a declaratory judgment prohibiting the FBI from using a "cult" characterization as a pretext for investigating a group, goes beyond plaintiffs' alleged injury and seeks a general "bright-line" rule which would be applicable in all future situations, those involving political parties as well as those involving other groups. In light of the pleadings, this relief is entirely inappropriate. Plaintiffs have produced no evidence to support their allegations that defendants used the "cult" characterization as a pretext for investigating NAP's activities. Nor have they alleged that defendants "used force, criminal prosecution or government regulation" to deter any of NAP's activities. Accordingly, the requested relief fails to address plaintiffs' alleged injury.
For these reasons, the court finds that plaintiffs lack standing to bring this cause of action and, therefore, the court has no jurisdiction over this matter. In Re U.S. Catholic Conference, 885 F.2d at 1023. Defendants' motion is granted and the complaint is dismissed.
Additionally, defendants urge this court to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint because: (1) plaintiffs have failed to identify "any applicable waiver of sovereign immunity;" and (2) plaintiffs have erroneously based jurisdiction on the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. Since the court has already granted defendants' motion, it is unnecessary to address any remaining issues. However, it should be noted for the record that both allegations have no merit and should be rejected.
Generally, the United States and federal agencies are immune from suit unless Congress waives such immunity. United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538, 63 L. Ed. 2d 607, 613, 100 S. Ct. 1349 (1980); United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 399, 47 L. Ed. 2d 114, 121, 96 S. Ct. 948 (1976). Since the FBI is a federal agency, defendants seek to avoid plaintiffs' claims by asserting sovereign immunity. However, 5 U.S.C. § 702 provides in part:
An action in a court of the United States seeking relief other than money damages and stating a claim that an agency or an officer or employee thereof acted or failed to act in an official capacity or under color of legal authority shall not be dismissed nor relief therein be denied on the ground that it is against the United States or that the United States is an indispensable party. (emphasis added).
While the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars lawsuits against government agencies or officials for money damages, it does not bar suits for injunctive or declaratory relief. See Ghandi v. police Dept. of City of Detroit, 747 F.2d 338, 343 (6th Cir. 1984) (Congress amended § 702 in 1976 to allow actions seeking non-monetary relief against government agencies if the agency conduct is otherwise subject to review); Jaffee v. United States, 592 F.2d 712, 718 (3rd Cir. 1979) (legislative history of § 702 specifically waives sovereign immunity in equitable actions brought under § 1331).
Here, NAP seeks equitable relief under the Declaratory Judgment Act; it seeks no monetary damages. Further, the complaint clearly states that the action arises under the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, but jurisdiction is "founded on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343." Comp. P 7. Since plaintiffs have pleaded constitutional claims, defendants' motion on this ground is denied.
For the reasons stated above, defendants' motion is granted.
New York, New York
July 28, 1994
Constance Baker Motley