Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bey v. Hilton

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 16, 2017

BILL HILTON, Security Supervisor, in his individual capacity, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Ali Shaman El Bey, proceeding pro se, filed this action against defendant Bill Hilton on May 28, 2015, alleging that he was arbitrarily denied access to a flight because his identification credentials were insufficient to allow him to travel. (Compl., ECF No. 1; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-8, ECF No. 6-1). Hilton has moved to dismiss. (Def.'s Mot, ECF No. 24). For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted, and this action is dismissed without prejudice for want of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Background [1]

         El Bey is an Indigenous Taino Native, of Moorish Ancestry, who was born in New York, but now lives Puerto Rico. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9). Since 2000, Plaintiff allegedly was able to travel back and forth between New York and Puerto Rico without incident, even though his identification documents were not issued by the United States or by any state thereof. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10). His uneventful transit was interrupted on July 11, 2010, when El Bey allegedly was stopped before boarding his return flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport ("JFK") in Queens to Puerto Rico and was questioned about his credentials. (Am. Compl. ¶ 10). Following this incident, El Bey corresponded with the Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") to resolve his identification issue. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11). After 11 months of haggling with TSA officials, and after, he says, complying with their instructions, including the acquisition of compliant credentials that allowed him to travel back home on November 11, 2011, El Bey believed that, at last, all identification issues had been resolved with respect to his flights between New York and Puerto Rico. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12-14).

         Notwithstanding plaintiffs understanding, on November 9, 2012, when he attempted to clear TSA screening at JFK for a flight to Puerto Rico, El Bey was once again stopped, and his credentials were questioned. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 6-8, 16-17). This TSA stop was made by defendant Bill Hilton, a TSA Security Supervisor. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 6-8, 16-17). Hilton asked El Bey if he had any other form of identification. (Am. Compl. ¶ 17). He replied, "yes, " and gave Hilton his International Road Travel Identification. (Am. Compl. ¶ 17; Demartini's Decl., Ex. 1, ECF No. 24-3). After examining this document Hilton, still not satisfied, asked El Bey if he had any other identification. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18). Plaintiff then gave Hilton a document certified by the United States Department of State, recognizing his indigenous native status. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18; Demartini's Decl., Ex. 1). Hilton told El Bey that he was unfamiliar with these other documents and passed them to another TSA employee, who left the checkpoint with the documents. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-20).

         After approximately two hours, the second TSA employee returned and handed plaintiffs documents to Hilton. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15, 21-22). Defendant then gave them back to El Bey, but informed him, with a laugh, that he would not be allowed to fly. (Am. Compl. ¶ 22). Plaintiff says that he thereafter contacted Steve Golubic, the Director of the Department of Tribal Affairs for the United States Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"). (Am Compl. ¶ 25; Pl's Opposition, Ex. 1, ECF No. 21). With Golubic's assistance, El Bey was allowed to fly from New York to Florida, where he ultimately boarded a flight to Puerto Rico. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25-27).

         Following the incident, Golubic sent El Bey a letter, dated February 8, 2013, which informed him that TSA's identity verification policy requires all adult passengers to provide a federal or state-issued photo ID for inspection before entering a TSA security checkpoint. (Demartini's Decl., Ex. 2). Golubic's letter further explained that a federally recognized Native American Tribal photo ID did not meet TSA's identity verification policy, but if an individual did not have an acceptable form of ID, that individual could either produce two alternative forms of ID that met the requirements or provide additional information so that TSA could reference publicly available databases to confirm the purported identity. (Demartini's Decl, Ex. 2). Golubic's letter also noted that "[t]hese requirements for acceptable IDs are included in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which [TSA] must adhere to when conducting passenger security screening." (Demartini's Decl., Ex. 2). Lastly, Golubic advised that the TSA "followed and operated within the requirements of [the] SOP" when El Bey was denied entry through the TSA checkpoint on November 9, 2012. (Demartini's Decl., Ex. 2).

         Although the allegations in El Bey's amended complaint focus on the events of November 9, 2012, that incident was not the last time that plaintiff was turned away from a TSA checkpoint. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). On November 15, 2013, El Bey approached a TSA checkpoint to catch a flight from JFK to Puerto Rico. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). Once again, he had to wait while TSA employees reviewed his documents, and, once again, he was denied entry at the checkpoint. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28-29). The next day, however, he was able to board a flight home. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 29-30).

         On May 28, 2015, El Bey brought this action against TSA, Hilton and unnamed TSA security supervisors. (Compl.). On August 15, 2015, the Court dismissed, sua sponte, El Bey's claims against TSA and its employees in their official capacities, but permitted the claims against the individual defendants in their individual capacities to proceed. (Mem. & Order 4, ECF No. 4). Plaintiff thereafter filed an amended complaint on September 28, 2015, naming the same defendants. (Am. Compl.). By Order, dated March 14, 2016, the Court permitted the matter to proceed against the only named individual defendant, Bill Hilton, as a Bivens action and dismissed all other claims. (Second Mem. & Order 1-2, ECF No. 7).

         At any rate, the gravamen of El Bey's amended complaint is that TSA personnel arbitrarily and capriciously denied him access to his November 9, 2012, flight, charging that the failure of TSA and its employees to consistently follow the law, rules, and guidelines, caused him damage by preventing him from timely attending to his responsibilities at home. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-8, 32). As proof of damage, he cites vandalism to his property and a delay in the treatment of a sinus cavity tumor. (Am. Compl. ¶ 33). The amended complaint demands damages of $10 million. (Am. Compl. ¶ 34). On February 8, 2017, Hilton filed his motion to dismiss. (Def.'s Mot.).

         Standard of Review

         The burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction when it is challenged by a Rule 12(b)(1) motion rests on the shoulders of the party invoking jurisdiction, not the party challenging it; proof of jurisdiction must be by a preponderance of the evidence. See, e.g., Augienello v. F.D.I.C, 310 F.Supp.2d 582, 587-88 (S.D.N.Y. 2004). Although a court "must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint, " it must not draw inferences favorable to the party asserting jurisdiction, J.S. ex rel. N.S. v. Attica Cent. Schs., 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004), and it "may resolve disputed factual issues by reference to evidence outside the pleadings, " Augienello, 310 F.Supp.2d at 588. Moreover, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the complaint's jurisdictional allegations." Id. (quoting Guadagno v. WallackAder LevithanAssocs., 932 F.Supp. 94, 95 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)).

         On the other hand, when deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a court must (1) accept as true all of the plaintiffs factual allegations and (2) draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. See Teichmann v. New York, 769 F.3d 821, 825 (2d Cir. 2014). It is also well established that, without regard to the nature of the motion directed at it, a court must construe a pro se litigant's pleadings liberally, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Mcleod v. Jewish Guild for the Blind, 864 F.3d 154, 156 (2d Cir. 2017), especially when those pleadings assert civil rights violations, see Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008). Notwithstanding the obligation to read pro se complaints with "special solicitude" and interpret them "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, " Triestman v. Fed Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474-75 (2d Cir. 2006) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), courts must nevertheless ensure that complaints "plead facts sufficient 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '" Teichmann, 769 F.3d at 825 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

         "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. This "plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (quoting Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of "entitlement to relief.'"" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Although '"detailed factual allegations'" are not required, "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.