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Begay v. Leap

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

February 26, 2019

IVAN RAY BEGAY, Plaintiff,
v.
MR. LEAP, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          REBECCA RUTHERFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court are (1) Defendant Mr. Leap's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16), asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amendment claims brought under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 389 (1971), and (2) Plaintiff Ivan Begay's “Motion for Relief, from ‘Order' Entered May 22, 2018, Pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1).” (ECF No. 22). For the reasons stated, the District Court should GRANT Defendant's Motion, and Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.

         Background

          On September 26, 2017, Plaintiff, a federal prisoner, serving a 302-month sentence for aggravated sexual abuse on an Indian reservation, filed a complaint asserting claims against federal prison officials for violating his First Amendment rights and requesting damages as compensation. Compl. 1, 4-6 (ECF No. 3); Def.'s Br. 6-7 (ECF No. 17). Though Plaintiff has been housed at several different federal corrections institutions (“F.C.I.”s), the relevant events occurred at F.C.I. Seagoville, Texas in October 2015. Compl. 6.

         Plaintiff alleges that Special Investigative Services (“S.I.S”) Agents Leap and Arajo interviewed him, along with an agent from the Office of Inspector General, about Ms. Dunn, an F.C.I. Seagoville employee. Id.; Def.'s Br. 7. Plaintiff maintains that the agents threatened him with additional prison time if he did not cooperate with the investigation. Compl 6. After they questioned him, Plaintiff states that he encountered Ms. Dunn, told her about the investigation, and asked her whether he needed an attorney. Id. 7. Later, Plaintiff recounts, Agents Leap and Arajo summoned him and demanded to know what he said to Ms. Dunn. Id. Plaintiff told the agents that he asked her why the agents were questioning him about her and threatening him with additional prison time if he withheld any information or made any false statements, and whether he needed his own attorney. Id. Plaintiff claims, as a result, that Mr. Leap told him that he had ruined his stay at Seagoville. Id. Plaintiff maintains that agents Leap and Arajo were “so upset, they close [sic] the entire Seagoville Compound, to prevent [him] from, speaking to [his] friends.” Id. Plaintiff further asserts that he was later placed in a special housing unit; while there, Mr. Leap came to Plaintiff's door and told him that he had also ruined his chance to be transferred to F.C.I. Englewood, Colorado. Id. 8. Plaintiff asked, “What did you do? Is this your doing?” Id. And, Mr. Leap allegedly replied, “Yup!” Id. Plaintiff was later transferred instead to F.C.I. Fort Dix, New Jersey. Id. Plaintiff claims that Mr. Leap effectuated his transfer to Fort Dix as retaliation for Plaintiff's exercising his First Amendment right. Id. 4.

         In response to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant Leap filed his Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's claims against him on grounds of qualified immunity and failure to state a claim under Bivens. Plaintiff filed a response, (ECF No. 18), but later filed a motion (ECF No. 20) requesting permission to file an amended response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The Court granted Plaintiff's request and required him to file a consolidated response by June 1, 2018. May 22, 2018 Order (ECF No. 21). Plaintiff did not file a consolidated response and instead filed his “Motion for Relief, from ‘Order' Entered May 22, 2018, Pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1).” (ECF No. 22). Defendant responded (ECF No. 24) to Plaintiff's Motion and subsequent “Notice of Relation Back Amendment.” Notice (ECF No. 23.). Accordingly, both motions are fully briefed and ripe for determination.

         I. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Legal Standards

         12(b)(6)

         When deciding a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim, the court “accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted). To survive Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, therefore, Plaintiff's Complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “To be plausible, the complaint's ‘[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This pleading standard does not require “‘detailed factual allegations, '” but it does demand more than an unadorned accusation devoid of factual support. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Where the facts do not permit the Court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the Complaint has stopped short of showing that Plaintiff is plausibly entitled to relief. Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may not look beyond the pleadings. Spivey v. Robertson, 197 F.3d 772, 774 (5th Cir. 1999). However, the pleadings, for the purpose of determining a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, include documents attached to the pleadings and to the motion to dismiss so long as they “are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to [his] claim.” Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498-99 (5th Cir. 2000)).

         Bivens

         In Bivens, the United States Supreme Court for the first time “recognized ‘an implied private action for damages against federal officers alleged to have violated a citizen's constitutional rights, '” specifically, under the Fourth Amendment. Butts v. Martin, 877 F.3d 571, 587 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Corr. Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 66 (2001); citing Bivens, 403 U.S. at 388). Unlike the multitude of claims that may be brought against state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, “a Bivens remedy is not available for all constitutional violations.” Id.; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675-76 (“In the limited settings where Bivens does apply, the implied cause of action is the ‘federal analog to suits brought against state officials under . . . 42 U.S.C. § 1983.'”) (citations omitted).

         In the decade after Bivens, the Supreme Court decided two cases in which it recognized an implied cause of action outside of the Fourth Amendment context; in Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228 (1979), the Court held that “the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause gave [the petitioner] a damages remedy for gender discrimination, ” and in Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980), the Court held that the “Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause gave [a prisoner's estate] a damages remedy for failure to provide adequate medical treatment.” Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843, 1854-55 (2017). “[Those] three cases-Bivens, Davis, and Carlson-represent the only instances in which the Court has approved of an implied damages remedy under the Constitution itself.” Id. at 1855. And since Carlson, the Court has “notabl[y] change[d] . . . [its] approach to recognizing implied causes of action . . . ma[king] clear that expanding the Bivens remedy is now a ‘disfavored' judicial activity.” Id. at 1857 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675).

         Though expanding Bivens is now a disfavored judicial activity, the Supreme Court has not foreclosed the possibility. The Supreme Court held that in considering a request for a new Bivens remedy, it first looks to “whether any alternative, existing process for protecting the interest amounts to a convincing reason for the Judicial Branch to refrain from providing a new and freestanding remedy in damages, ” and second, even if there is no alternative, whether there are “any special factors counselling hesitation before authorizing a new kind of federal litigation.” Wilkie v. Robbins, 551 U.S. 537, 550 (2007) (citing Bush v. Lucas, 462 U.S. 367, 378 (1983)). The Supreme Court has not defined “special factors counselling hesitation, ” but has noted that they encompass those things that cause a court to hesitate before determining that it “is well suited, absent congressional action or instruction, to consider and weigh the costs and benefits of allowing a damages action to proceed.” Ziglar, 137 S.Ct. at 1857-58. Implying new causes of action under the Constitution implicates separation-of-powers concerns such that “[i]n ...


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