United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
M. ELIZABETH REICH, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, in her official capacity as Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration; SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. BOYLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendants Nancy A. Berryhill
(“Berryhill”) and the Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) Motion to Dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (Doc.
10), filed on February 8, 2019. The Motion challenges the
Court's subject matter jurisdiction under the
Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C.
§ 706, and the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1361,
arguing that adequate alternative remedies exist for
Reich's causes of action. Doc. 10, Mot., 7-8. Defendants
argue that the appropriate remedy is either to bring a claim
under the Tucker Act in the Court of Federal
Claims or in the Civilian Board of Contract
Appeals (“CBCA”). Id. at 8, 10. Because
the Court finds that adequate alternative remedies exist to
Plaintiff's APA and Mandamus Act claims, Defendants'
Motion is hereby GRANTED.
is a former employee of the Social Security Administration.
Doc. 1, Compl., ¶ 7. Reich worked for the SSA from 2000
to 2016 until Reich left to work for the City of Dallas.
Id. ¶¶ 7, 9-10. In early 2016, the SSA
relocated Reich from Woodlawn, Maryland to Dallas, Texas.
Id. ¶ 8. The SSA provided Reich with relocation
expenses totaling $17, 769.50, and Reich signed a Service
Agreement that required Reich to repay the relocation
expenses if she left “Government service” within
twelve months. Id. ¶¶ 8, 17. Prior to
leaving the SSA, Reich requested a waiver to the Service
Agreement and Defendant Berryhill, then Deputy Commissioner,
recommended approval to the Acting Commissioner. Id.
September 3, 2016, the SSA provided a Notification of
Personnel Action (NPA) to Reich that effectuated her
separation and waived the Service Agreement provision for
repayment of relocation expenses. Id. ¶ 11
(citing Ex. D, § 45). However, on September 16, 2016,
Berryhill sent a letter to Reich denying the waiver for
relocation expenses since “Government service”
means the United States Government or the District of
Columbia, not the City of Dallas. Id. ¶ 13;
Id. (citing Ex. E). The SSA then sent a corrected
NPA to Reich on October 5, 2016 that omitted the language for
the Service Agreement waiver. Id. ¶ 15. Reich
received a letter from the Director of Travel Services for
SSA on November 12, 2016, that declared she owed a debt of
$17, 769.50 and contained information on how to request a
hearing. Id. ¶ 17. Reich requested a hearing on
November 17, 2016, by submitting “(1) a summary of
relevant facts of which she is aware; (2) authorities
supporting her position; (3) a list of witnesses relevant to
the dispute; (4) copies of documentary evidence in her
possession; and (5) a description of relevant documentary
evidence likely in SSA's control.” Id.
¶ 18. A year and a half passed without word from the
agency until on June 1, 2018, Reich received a letter from
the Department of the Treasury for a $23, 185.79 debt with no
explanation for the $5, 416.29 increase in the debt.
Id. ¶ 22 (citing Ex. J).
November 5, 2018, Reich filed her Complaint with the Court
(Doc. 1), seeking: (1) a declaration that the SSA waived the
Service Agreement; (2) a declaration that the SSA's
actions violated the APA; (3) an order enjoining defendants from
collecting the debt; (4) an order for the SSA to contact
credit agencies to fix Reich's credit rating; (5) an
award for costs and attorneys' fees; and (6) other relief
that the Court deems proper. Doc. 1, Compl., 12. The SSA
filed its Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) on February 8, 2019. In
its Motion, Defendants contend that the Court must dismiss
Reich's Complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction because Reich's action “is
forbidden by the Tucker Act” and “Reich also has
adequate remedies available elsewhere.” Doc. 10, Mot.,
6. Plaintiff meanwhile frames this as a dispute over the
SSA's “failure to provide her with the required
process, not one where she disagrees with the Agency's
conclusions resulting from the process, ” which is why,
she argues, that “the APA provides subject-matter
jurisdiction.” Doc. 11, Pl.'s Resp., 4. Since all
briefing has been received, the Court now considers the
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.”
Stockman v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 138 F.3d 144,
151 (5th Cir. 1998). For that reason, they can adjudicate
claims only when subject matter jurisdiction “is
expressly conferred by the Constitution and federal
statute.” Armstrong v. Tygart, 886 F.Supp.2d
572, 584 (W.D. Tex. 2012) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides the vehicle through
which a party may challenge that jurisdiction. Id.
Whether a Federal Court Has Subject Matter Jurisdiction
determine subject matter jurisdiction the court may look to:
“(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint
supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or
(3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the
court's resolution of disputed facts.”
Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161. Additionally, “[a]
Rule 12(b)(1) motion can mount either a facial or factual
challenge.” MacKenzie v. Castro, 2016 WL
3906084, at *2 (N.D. Tex. July 19, 2016). A facial challenge
occurs “[w]hen a party files a Rule 12(b)(1) motion
without including evidence.” Id. A factual
challenge, by contrast, occurs when a party supports its Rule
12(b)(1) motion with evidence. Id.
cases, the burden of proof “‘is on the party
asserting jurisdiction.'” Id. (quoting
Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161). So Plaintiff must prove
that jurisdiction exists. Here, Defendants filed their Rule
12(b)(1) motion without any additional evidence, so it is
considered a facial attack. Thus, the Court considers just
“the sufficiency of the allegations in the complaint
because they are presumed to be true.” Paterson v.
Weinberger, 644 F.2d 521, 523 (5th Cir. 1981). And
“[i]f those jurisdictional allegations are sufficient
the complaint stands.” Id.
“subject-matter jurisdiction . . . involves a
court's power to hear a case, [it] can never be forfeited
or waived.” United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S.
625, 630 (2002). And if a federal court finds a lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, the complaint must be dismissed
entirely. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500,
Sovereign Immunity Must be Waived for a Federal Court to Have