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Morgan v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

April 10, 2017





         Before the Court are Defendant Federal Bureau of Investigation's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 5); Plaintiff's Response to Defendant FBI's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 13); Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 11); Defendant's Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 12); Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Dkt. No. 17); and Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Case (Dkt. No. 19). The District Court referred the above motions to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, and Rule 1(c) of Appendix C of the Local Rules.


         Plaintiff Caroline Morgan brings this action against the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), Office of Injured Employee Counsel (OIEC), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Morgan originally filed this suit in Travis County to stay proceedings for two workers' compensation claims while Morgan's two cases before the Fifth Circuit are pending.[1] The workers' compensation claims supposedly request relief for a work fall, which caused a spinal fracture. Dkt. No. 2-3 at 6.

         According to Morgan, the two pending workers' compensation claims are handled by TDI and OIEC. Dkt. No. 2-3 at 2. However, Morgan alleges that the FBI's unconstitutional actions-which are addressed in the two cases before the Fifth Circuit, and include allegations such as accessing her veins, infiltrating her medical records, and withholding records-affect the outcome of the state proceedings. Dkt. No. 2-3 at 6-7. See also Morgan v. FBI, No. A-15-CV-1255-LY, 2016 WL 7443397, *1 (W.D. Tex. May 24, 2016); Morgan v. Unknown FBI Agents, Dkt. No. 5, No. A-16-CV-495-SS, *4 (W.D. Tex. May 3, 2016). She therefore requests a stay of the workers' compensation proceedings until the federal appeals have been decided. Though Morgan included the FBI as a defendant to this claim, the FBI plays no role in the state proceedings. Moreover, Morgan does not appear to request any relief from the FBI regarding this claim. Thus, this claim appears to solely apply to TDI and OIEC.

         Notwithstanding this, in her state court petition Morgan additionally requests a permanent injunction against the FBI. Dkt. No. 2-9. Morgan claims that the FBI: tampered with her mail on multiple occasions (Dkt. No. 2-9 at 3); slashed her bike tire causing her to crash (Id.); drugged her on two occasions (Id. at 5); colluded with the local police force to prevent her from making a report against the FBI (Id.); and generally covered up all of its actions through collusion with a number of state and local entities (Id. at 9-10). She argues that the FBI violated her Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and requests the court to enjoin the FBI from continuing these actions.

         The FBI removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a), and immediately moved for dismissal of the claims against it. The FBI argues that this Court does not have jurisdiction over Morgan's claims, or in the alternative, that she has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Morgan objected to both the removal and motion to dismiss, arguing that removal was improper and the case should be remanded to the state court. She does not challenge the arguments made by the FBI in its motion to dismiss, and only argues that the removal was improper. Dkt. No. 13. Neither TDI nor OIEC have filed any motions in this Court, so the motion to stay proceedings is not at issue here.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a party to assert lack of subject-matter jurisdiction as a defense to suit. Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and may only exercise such jurisdiction as is expressly conferred by the Constitution and federal statutes. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A federal court properly dismisses a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when it lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case. Home Builders Assn. of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). “The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is on the party asserting jurisdiction.” Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 536 U.S. 960 (2002). “Accordingly, the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.” Id. In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court may consider any one of the following: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint plus undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint, undisputed facts, and the court's resolution of disputed facts. Lane v. Halliburton, 529 F.3d 548, 557 (5th Cir. 2008).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The FBI moves to dismiss Morgan's claims on the basis of the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction. This doctrine states that “when a case is removed from state to federal court, the jurisdiction of the federal court is derived from the state court's jurisdiction.” Lopez v. Sentrillon Corp., 749 F.3d 347, 350 (5th Cir. 2014); see also Colonial Cty. Mutual Ins. Co. v. United States, No. SA-15-CV-917, 2015 WL 7454698, *2 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 23, 2015); Schlorff v. Dig. Eng'g & Imaging, Inc., No. 16-11016, 2016 WL 6276882, *2 (E.D. La. Oct. 27, 2016).[2] In Lopez, the court found that because the United States had not waived sovereign immunity in state court for claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, removal to federal court did not cure the state court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 351. Thus, even if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the claims, the district court's subject matter jurisdiction after removal is limited to that of the state court's. Id. at 350. While the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction no longer applies to removal under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, the Fifth Circuit found that it still applies to removal under Section 1442. Id. Here, the FBI removed this case pursuant to Section 1442(a), which allows for removal for any claims against a federal official or agency. 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a). Thus, this Court does not have jurisdiction over any claims that could not be brought against the FBI in state court.

         In her state court petition, Morgan requests injunctive relief against the FBI for a number of alleged actions. However, Morgan has failed to identify where the United States has waived its sovereign immunity from suit for the relief she seeks in state court. See F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) (“Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit.”); cf. Lopez, 749 F.3d at 351 (finding that even though the United States waived its sovereign immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act, it granted exclusive jurisdiction to federal courts).[3] Accordingly, the state court was without jurisdiction to hear Morgan's claims against the FBI. Under the derivative jurisdiction doctrine, therefore, this Court does not have jurisdiction over the removed claims.

         Moreover, even were this Court to find it has subject matter jurisdiction, Morgan fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A complaint lacks an arguable basis in fact and is factually frivolous when the allegations are fanciful, fantastic, and delusional or when they “rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992); see Flores v. United States Attorney General, 434 F. App'x 387, 388 (5th Cir. 2011) (finding that pro se plaintiff's fanciful and delusional claims should be dismissed as frivolous where plaintiff alleged that certain members of the federal government ...

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