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Samuel Newton v. Bureau of Prisons

April 28, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge


On November 1, 2010, Plaintiff Samuel Newton, Jr. filed this pro se complaint against Defendant Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). Plaintiff filed the requisite filing fee. On February 28, 2011, Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


Plaintiff provides little background to his allegations. Indeed, in the one-page complaint, the only description Plaintiff provides of his "statement of claim" is the following: "Arrested on 04/01/2009 and then released on 08/04/2010 for a filed federal complaint, there was no indictment, held in prison for 1 year 4 months and 3 days without an INDICTMENT. False Arrest & False Imprisonment." (Compl. at 1.) It appears that Plaintiff is asserting a claim regarding his April 1, 2009 arrest and subsequent imprisonment.

On March 18, 2009, a sealed complaint was filed in this court charging Plaintiff with theft of government property valued in excess of $1,000, and an arrest warrant for Plaintiff's arrest was issued by a magistrate judge. (See Docket No. 09-mj-259, Entry Nos. 1, 2.) On April 1, 2009, Plaintiff was arrested, appointed defense counsel, and arraigned by the magistrate judge, who ordered that Plaintiff be detained pending trial. (See Docket No. 09-mj-259, Entry Nos. 4-8.) The magistrate judge also ordered that Plaintiff undergo psychiatric evaluation. On September 16, 2009 and October 1, 2009, competency hearings were held, at the end of which the court concluded that Plaintiff was not mentally capable of understanding the criminal charges against him and was, thus, not competent to stand trial. (See Docket No. 09-mj-259, Entry Nos. 11, 12, 13.) Plaintiff was ordered to be held in a mental health facility to determine whether it would be possible to proceed with the case against him. (Docket No. 09-mj-259, Entry No. 12.) On August 4, 2010, after subsequent hearings and medical evaluations, the court found there was no basis for continuing to hold Plaintiff, and that he should be released from custody. (See Docket No. 09-mj-259, Entry dated August 4, 2010.) The criminal charges were, therefore, dismissed. (See id.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel at all proceedings, as noted on the case docket.

Plaintiff filed this complaint on November 1, 2010. Defendant correctly notes that Plaintiff's false arrest and false imprisonment claims against the BOP may be liberally construed as asserting two possible causes of action: (1) a claim for false arrest or false imprisonment under the Federal Torts Claim Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq.; or (2) a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and resulting damages pursuant to Bivens v. Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).*fn1 Plaintiff seeks "[t]he amount of $146,400.00 and all items that was [sic] taken returned. Computers, ext [sic] fingerprints, D&A [sic]." (Compl. at 1.)

Defendant argues that any such claims must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff opposes the motion to dismiss, and argues that the motion has been made merely to delay the adjudication of his claim.


"A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). "The plaintiff bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence." Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys., Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005). In determining the existence of subject matter jurisdiction, a district court may consider evidence outside the pleadings. Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113. Additionally, the court "must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint," but is "not to draw inferences from the complaint favorable to plaintiffs." J.S. ex rel. N.S. v. Attica Cent. Sch., 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). In reviewing plaintiff's complaint, the court is mindful that, "a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

1.FTCA Claim Against BOP

To the extent that the court construes Plaintiff's complaint as asserting an FTCA claim, Defendant argues that, as a threshold matter, it is not a proper defendant under the FTCA. (Def. Mem. 4-5.) Defendant further argues that, even if the United States were substituted as the proper Defendant, any FTCA claim fails because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and the court, thus, lacks subject matter jurisdiction. (Def. Mem. 5-6.)

a.The BOP is not the Proper Defendant

By enacting the FTCA, Congress waived the United States' sovereign immunity with respect to claims against the United States that seek money damages for personal injury "caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment." 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). "The waiver of sovereign immunity under the FTCA, 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), is strictly limited to suits predicated upon a tort cause of action cognizable under state law and brought in accordance with the provisions of the FTCA." Finelli v. Drug Enforcement Agency, 1993 WL 51105, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 1993). "Any suit under the FTCA must strictly comply with the terms and conditions of this waiver . . . ." Narvaez v. United States, 2007 WL 174141, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 2007).

The FTCA prohibits a government agency from being sued in its own name. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 2679(a). Therefore, any tort claim against the BOP, an agency of the federal government, can only be maintained against the United States. However, even if the court substitutes the United States for the BOP for the purposes of this analysis, see, e.g., Toomer v. County of Nassau, 2009 WL 1269946, at *10 n.12 (E.D.N.Y. May 5, 2009), the ...

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