Davidson v. U.S. Dep't of State

Decision Date07 July 2015
Docket NumberCivil Action No.: 14–01358 (RC)
Citation113 F.Supp.3d 183
Parties Lawrence U. Davidson, III, Plaintiff, v. United States Department of State, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Lawrence U. Davidson, III, Charlotte, NC, pro se.

Benton Gregory Peterson, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge

GRANTING DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO TEST SUFFICIENCY OF ANSWER
I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Mr. Lawrence U. Davidson, III, pro se, has brought this action against the U.S. Department of State and sixteen individuals who are current or former employees thereof ("Defendants"), in their official and individual capacities. Mr. Davidson seeks both injunctive relief and monetary damages in connection with Department of State's refusal to provide him with diplomatic assistance in collecting an alleged debt that the former government of Libya owes him. Currently before the Court is Defendants' partial motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment.1 Also pending is Mr. Davidson's motion to test the sufficiency of Defendants' answer. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion and dismiss Mr. Davidson's claims seeking mandamus relief and monetary damages, enter judgment on the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA") claims, and deny Mr. Davidson's motion to test the sufficiency of Defendants' answer.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff, Mr. Lawrence U. Davidson, III, is a U.S. citizen and the sole proprietor of Export Strategic Alliance ("ESA"), which is a "for[-]profit synchronistic multidisciplinary economic generator." Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 1. Mr. Davidson contracted with the Great Socialist Peoples Libya Arab Jamahiriya ("Jamahiriya") to deliver medicines valued at $70 million and 12 million metric tons of foodstuffs valued at $4.5 billion.Id. In consideration for the delivery, Jamahiriya promised to pay Mr. Davidson $28 million, which, to this date, remains unpaid. Id.

In November 2011, Mr. Davidson sought payment from Jamahiriya and its successor entities within the Temporary Financing Mechanism, the National Transitional Council/Government and Republic of Libya, as well as the Libyan Embassy in Washington, D.C., by submitting a detailed invoice via letter, fax, and email. Id. ¶ 23. He received no response, however, besides an electronic acknowledgement that the invoices were received. Id. As early as September 2012, Mr. Davidson turned to the Department of State, hoping to receive assistance through diplomatic channels. Id. ¶ 24. Specifically, he submitted requests for "commercial diplomacy, or in the alternative a ‘Letter d'Marche,’ " a formal diplomatic communication. Id. ¶ 26. In the requests, he explained that he had "exhausted all reasonable and rational local ... remedies," such as contacting cabinet officials and prime ministers. Id. ¶ 29.

In December 2013, Mr. Davidson received a letter from Defendant Susannah Cooper, Director of the Office of Maghreb Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, noting that "the primary responsibility for resolution of such disputes remains with the U.S. citizen" and that Mr. Davidson may wish to "consider engaging local counsel or bringing the dispute directly to the attention of the Libyan government." Defs.' Partial Mot. Dismiss or Alternative Summ. J. ("Defs.' Partial Mot.") at 6, ECF No. 7. In the same letter, Defendant Cooper provided an address for contacting the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Id.

In February 2014, Defendant Cooper once again responded to Mr. Davidson's continued requests by reminding him that "the primary responsibility for the resolution of disputes is on U.S. citizens," and requested that Mr. Davidson show the steps he had taken in order to exhaust local legal remedies in Libya. Id. Ex. 7 at 2, ECF No. 7–7. On April 3, 2014, Defendant Cooper sent another letter instructing Mr. Davidson that he "must exhaust local remedies" and that it is his primary responsibility, not the Department of State's, to resolve the disputes. Id. at 4. The letter also noted that the United States Embassy in Libya "has confirmed that there are readily available legal resources for international companies in Libya." Id.

Thereafter, Mr. Davidson instituted this action against Defendants, suing them in both their official and individual capacities. He alleges that "defendants individually had a duty to provide plaintiff with diplomatic services in the nature of commercial diplomacy more selectively a Letter D'Marche directed to the government of Libya as then existing to address an outstanding invoice for services rendered to the previous administration (Jamarihiya)." Compl. ¶ 43. In the Complaint, Mr. Davidson requests four specific remedies. First, he seeks injunctive relief "directing the State Department pursuant to authorities cited herein for commercial diplomacy," or more specifically, to send an official diplomatic communication to the Libyan government on his behalf. Compl. at 16. Second, Mr. Davidson seeks a declaratory judgment directing the Department of State to "comply with the plaintiff's Freedom of Information [Act] request in a timely manner." Id. Third, Mr. Davidson seeks compensatory damages from Defendants, in the amount of 8% per annum for the unpaid value for the goods and services he provided to Jamarihiya. Id. Fourth, he seeks litigation costs in connection with this action.Id.

Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, addressing the claims other than the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") claims. See Defs.' Partial Mot. As to Mr. Davidson's claims seeking a writ of mandamus and monetary damages, the motion argues that they should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Id. at 10–24. As to the APA claims, the motion moves to dismiss for failure to state a claim on the 5 U.S.C. § 706(1) claim, and for summary judgment on the 5 U.S.C. § 706(2) claim. Id. at 24–28. Defendants also filed an answer to Mr. Davidson's FOIA claims. See Answer, ECF No. 8.

Mr. Davidson filed a response to Defendants' motion and also moved to test the sufficiency of Defendants' answer pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 7(b), 8(b)(3) and (4), and 11(b). See Pl.'s Mot. Test Sufficiency Answer ("Pl.'s Mot.") at 4, ECF No. 12. Both motions are now ripe for decision.

III. ANALYSIS
A. Standard of Review
1. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Rule 12(b)(1))

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction[.]" Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). Thus, to survive a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that a court has jurisdiction over his claim. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 103–04, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998) (standing and Article III jurisdiction); Moms Against Mercury v. FDA, 483 F.3d 824, 828 (D.C.Cir.2007) (subject-matter jurisdiction). In determining whether jurisdiction exists, a court may "consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Coal. for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C.Cir.2003) (citations omitted).

"If sovereign immunity has not been waived, a claim is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction." Clayton v. District of Columbia, 931 F.Supp.2d 192, 200 (D.D.C.2013) (citing F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475, 114 S.Ct. 996, 127 L.Ed.2d 308 (1994) ("Sovereign immunity is jurisdictional in nature.")). Courts "may not find a waiver unless Congress' intent is unequivocally expressed in the relevant statute." Hubbard v. Adm'r, E.P.A., 982 F.2d 531, 532 (D.C.Cir.1992) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

2. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Rule 12(b)(6))

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim" in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) ; accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). A court considering such a motion presumes that the complaint's factual allegations are true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff's favor. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C.2000). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint.See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511–14, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002) ; Bryant v. Pepco, 730 F.Supp.2d 25, 28–29 (D.D.C.2010).

Nevertheless, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). This means that a plaintiff's factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555–56, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)...

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