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Davis v. 1568 Broadway Hotel Management LLC

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 5, 2018




         Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff Jameel Haikeem Davis (“Plaintiff” or “Davis”), proceeding pro se, commenced this lawsuit against Defendant Times Square Hotel Operating Lessee LLC d/b/a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton - Times Square (“Defendant” or “DoubleTree”), Complaint (“Compl.”) [Dkt. 1], alleging a variety of claims related to wage withholdings. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the Plaintiff fails to plead any cognizable cause of action with regard to the eleven counts asserted. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (“MTD”) [Dkt. 27].[1] For the reasons below, the Court dismisses the Complaint with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a resident of New York City, [2] makes several claims against his employer DoubleTree, all essentially based on the allegation that he has been injured because Defendant improperly withheld income taxes and executed a garnishment of his wages to satisfy his child support obligations. Plaintiff asserts that he has communicated his wage-related grievances with representatives of the hotel on two occasions. On December 16, 2016, Plaintiff met with representatives of the Defendant and demanded that they stop the withholdings and garnishments, submitting various documents in support of his request.[3] Compl. ¶¶ 17-21, 29- 32; Exs. A-F. On February 2, 2017, Plaintiff again met with members of the staff and submitted an affidavit in addition to the original set of documents.[4] Id. ¶¶ 33-39; Ex. G. According to Plaintiff, no change was made to his net compensation in response his requests. Id. ¶¶ 32, 41. Plaintiff claims that he has suffered a broad array of injuries, laid out in eleven counts, which include violations of due process and other civil rights (Counts One through Six); civil conspiracy (Count Seven); abuse of process (Count Eight); breach of fiduciary duty (Count Nine); economic duress (Count Ten); and infliction of emotional distress (Count Eleven). Id. ¶¶ 66-87.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must allege sufficient facts, taken as true, to state a plausible claim for relief.” Johnson v., Inc., 711 F.3d 271, 275 (2d Cir. 2013) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). “Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “[T]o survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint does not need to contain detailed or elaborate factual allegations, but only allegations sufficient to raise an entitlement to relief above the speculative level.” Keiler v. Harlequin Enters., Ltd., 751 F.3d 64, 70 (2d Cir. 2014) (citation omitted).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts all factual allegations in the pleadings as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Gibbons v. Malone, 703 F.3d 595, 599 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). “A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, . . . and 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) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         A. The Tax Withholding and Garnishments Underlying the Allegations were Proper

         1. Tax Withholding

         Plaintiff argues that Defendant's withholding of income taxes from his wages was illegal. Compl. ¶ 10-12. “All persons in the United States who receive earned income or remuneration or unearned income are required to file tax returns and, if the income is sufficient, must pay taxes.” Bey v. City of New York D.O.C., No. 97 CIV. 4866 (RPP), 1997 WL 576090, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 17, 1997), aff'd sub nom. Akil Bey v. City of New York Dep't of Correction, 164 F.3d 617 (2d Cir. 1998). See also United States v. O'Connor, No. 07-CR-86A, 2007 WL 3232093, at *3 (W.D.N.Y. Oct. 31, 2007) (quoting United States v. Sloan, 939 F.2d 499, 501 (7th Cir. 1991)). Deducting appropriate income taxes from an employee's wages is a mandatory legal obligation of an employer, not a discretionary policy. ‘El Bey v. MTA/New York, No. 00 CV 2504 (GBD), 2001 WL 487410, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 8, 2001) (citing 26 U.S.C. § 3402(a)(1)).[5]An employer who duly complies with requirements to withhold taxes from wages cannot be held liable for doing so. Id. (citing 26 U.S.C. § 3403; Maxfield v. U.S. Postal Serv., 752 F.2d 433, 434 (9th Cir. 1984); Edgar v. Inland Steele Co., 744 F.2d 1276, 1278 (7th Cir. 1984); Kupcho v. Steele, 651 F.Supp. 797, 800 (S.D.N.Y. 1986)). To prevent a withholding of federal income tax, there must be “some employment contractual provision to the contrary.” ‘El Bey, 2001 WL 487410, at *2 (citations omitted).

         Certain individuals, including nonresident aliens, are exempt from federal income taxes.[6]26 C.F.R. § 1.871-1(a). Plaintiff asserts he is a nonresident alien and has never “lived, worked, nor ha[d] income from any source within” the United States, although he concedes that he was born in New York State. Ex. A, Ex. E. Plaintiff further claimed to be a nonresident alien in a W-8BEN form, in which he recorded his permanent address as “Earth (not within any government), ” but he listed a New York City mailing address immediately below (while asserting that New York, New York is “not within any federal zone”). Ex. D; see also Ex. C (listing the same address under “Home address”). The thrust of Plaintiff's argument appears to be that because he was born in New York State (or, as he refers to it, “New York State Republic”), rather than a non-state U.S. territory, he is not subject to U.S. jurisdiction and is exempt from paying taxes. See Ex. E (“I hereby certify that I, Jameel Haikeem Davis, was born in the continental New York State Republic, of the Union (u)nited [sic] States of America. I was not born in a territory over which the United States is Sovereign and I am, therefore, not a citizen of the United States, subject to its jurisdiction, to whom the Internal Revenue Code is applicable . . . . I am a Citizen of New York State, and am domiciled in New York county, where I have occupied such status for approximately 40 years since my date of birth . . . . I am, therefore, a natural born Citizen of one of the 50 union American States . . . . ”).

         Plaintiff is incorrect. New York is a state of the United States, and residents of New York State are subject to U.S. federal jurisdiction. Plaintiff was born in New York and has lived here all of his life; he is an American citizen. See 8 U.S.C. § 1401. As an American citizen residing in the United States, Plaintiff is subject to the requirement that he pay income taxes. Thus, Defendant properly withheld Plaintiff's taxes.[7]

         2. Child Support Garnishments

         Plaintiff argues that the garnishments of his wages pursuant to an Income Withholding Order (“IWO”) issued by Westchester County Child Support Enforcement are illegal. See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 11. Employers are required by New York State law to garnish obligatory child support payments pursuant to an IWO. See N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 5241 (obligating employers to garnish wages and subjecting employers to penalty for failure to do so); Davis IWO (“IWO”) [Dkt. 28- 1]; 42 U.S.C. § 654(4)(B) (requiring that a state plan for child support must “enforce any support obligation established” against a qualifying parent).

         Plaintiff argues that the garnishments are illegal because the IWO is void. Id. ¶¶ 11, 23- 30; see also Ex. B. Plaintiff alleges that the IWO is “not a Court order pursuant trial by jury, ” adding that the Family Court child support hearings violate due process because they are “non-judicial but administrative.” Id. at ¶¶ 11, 25. As a result, he claims, IWOs are “forgeries” and “void judgments.” Id. at ¶ 28. Further, Plaintiff argues that the IWO was not signed by a judge and is, therefore, an “invalid instrument and forged document.” Id. at ΒΆ 29. These arguments are unavailing. Nothing in the statute or Plaintiff's allegations suggests that an IWO, in order to be effective, must be the result of a jury trial, or that a judge's signature is required. The legal authorities cited in ...

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