N'Jai v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., No. 19-cv-2712 (DLF)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtDABNEY L. FRIEDRICH United States District Judge
Docket NumberNo. 19-cv-2712 (DLF)
Decision Date31 March 2021


No. 19-cv-2712 (DLF)


March 31, 2021


Jacquelyn N'Jai brings this action against the Department of Education ("the Department"), the Secretary of Education ("the Secretary"), Long Island University, New York University, Immediate Credit Recovery, Inc., New York State Higher Education Services Corporation ("New York Higher Education Services"), Campus Products and Services ("Campus Products"), and Conduent Education Services.1 Before the Court is Long Island University and New York University's Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 56, Immediate Credit Recovery's Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 60, the Department's Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 70, and New York Higher

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Education Services's Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 92. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motions.


N'Jai attended Long Island University from 1986 to 1988, and New York University from 1988 to 1989. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. In order to finance her education, she took out two loans—one for $2,500 and one for $3,000—that she asserts she has paid in full. See id. ¶¶ 1-2. N'Jai alleges that various parties conspired to fraudulently take out additional student loans in her name. Specifically, she alleges that, in 1993, Gregory Kaplan, an analyst for Chase Bank, falsely certified several new student loans, id. ¶¶ 4, 165, and then "both NYU and LIU signed her name on loan applications" "without her consent []or knowledge," id. ¶ 33, and conspired with the Department of Education, Chase Bank, and New York Higher Education Services to steal her identity, id. ¶ 36.

N'Jai has fought these allegedly fraudulent loans by appealing to the Department in writing and applying for a discharge of the debt, see id. ¶ 29, but to no avail, as the Department continues to assert that these loans are valid, id. ¶¶ 27-28. The Department has allegedly enlisted Immediate Credit Recovery, Campus Products, and Conduent Education Services to help collect the debt, see id. ¶¶ 21, 28. N'Jai asserts that this has led to the garnishment of her tax refund as well as her social security checks. See id. at 4.

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N'Jai filed this action on September 9, 2019. See Am. Compl. Although it is difficult to determine the precise nature of N'Jai's claims, her 79-page complaint enumerates eight counts that purport to assert causes of action against some or all of the defendants pursuant to the following statutes or regulations: (1) the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., Am. Compl. at 17-21; (2) 18 U.S.C. § 1028, Am. Compl. at 23-28; (3) the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., Am. Compl. at 28-35; (4) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 18 U.S.C. §§ 242, 245, Am. Compl. at 35-44; (5) 34 C.F.R. § 685.206, Am. Compl. at 44-52; (6) the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 702, Am. Compl. at 53-59; (7) the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1346, Am. Compl. at 59-63; and (8) the False Claims Act ("FCA"), 31 U.S.C. § 3729, et seq., Am. Compl. at 63-80. N'Jai seeks, among other things, an emergency injunction: (1) declaring that all of her debts have been paid; (2) voiding any other outstanding debts based on fraud; and (3) estopping any future collection attempts. Am. Compl. at 80-81. The Department and several defendants, Long Island University, New York University, Immediate Credit Recovery, and New York Higher Education Services, have moved to dismiss N'Jai's amended complaint on various grounds. See Dkts. 70, 56, 60, and 92. All four motions are now ripe for review.


A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a defendant to move to dismiss an action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). Federal law empowers federal district courts to hear only certain kinds of cases, and it is "presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins., 511 U.S. 375, 377

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(1994). When deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court must "assume the truth of all material factual allegations in the complaint and construe the complaint liberally, granting plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged, and upon such facts determine [the] jurisdictional questions." Am. Nat'l Ins. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). But the court "may undertake an independent investigation" that examines "facts developed in the record beyond the complaint" in order to "assure itself of its own subject matter jurisdiction." Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). A court that lacks jurisdiction must dismiss the action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), 12(h)(3).

B. Rule 12(b)(2)

Under Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss an action when the court lacks personal jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). "On such a motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of 'establishing a factual basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction' over each defendant." Triple Up Ltd. v. Youku Tudou Inc., 235 F. Supp. 3d 15, 20-21 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990)). To meet this burden, a plaintiff cannot rely on conclusory allegations, id., but rather must allege specific facts connecting the defendant with the forum, see Shibeshi v. United States, 932 F. Supp. 2d 1, 2-3 (D.D.C. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Second Amendment Found. v. U.S. Conf. of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2001)).

When ruling on a 12(b)(2) motion, the court "may receive and weigh affidavits and any other relevant matter to assist it in determining the jurisdictional facts." Triple Up Ltd., 235 F. Supp. 3d at 20 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Ultimately, the [c]ourt must satisfy itself that it has jurisdiction to hear the suit." Id. at 20-21 (internal quotation marks omitted).

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C. Rule 12(b)(6)

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a defendant to move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must contain factual matter sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A facially plausible claim is one that "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This standard does not amount to a specific probability requirement, but it does require "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 ("Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level."). A complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations," but alleging facts that are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Well-pleaded factual allegations are "entitled to [an] assumption of truth," id. at 679, and the court construes the complaint "in favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged," Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks 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) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, "the Supreme Court has made clear that . . . there is no requirement 'that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.'" Jean-

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Pierre v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 880 F. Supp. 2d 95, 100 (D.D.C. 2012) (quoting McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993)).

Although a pro se complaint is generally entitled to liberal construction, see Washington v. Geren, 675 F. Supp. 2d 26, 31 (D.D.C. 2009), the assumption of truth does not apply to a "legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation," Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted). An "unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation" is not credited; likewise, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.


A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

As an initial matter, New York Higher Education Services asserts that, as an agency of the State of New York, it is immune from suit. The Court agrees. A state is immune from federal suits brought by the state's own citizens or the citizens of another state unless the state waives its sovereign immunity or Congress abrogates that immunity. See Jones v. WMATA, 205 F.3d 428, 431-32 (D.C. Cir. 2000).

New York Higher Education Services is an educational corporation that was created within the State of New York's Education Department. See N.Y. Educ. Law § 652(1). It is charged with administering the state's financial aid and loan programs and assisting the federal government with its administration of federal student aid programs, id. § 652(2), and it is supported by the New York State Treasury, see id. § 654(3); see also Bulson v. Control Data Corp., 563 N.Y.S.2d 249, 250 (N.Y. App. Div. 1990) ( "[A]ny award made [against New York Higher Education Services] as a result of this or any other claim would come out of the State's treasury.").

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Courts have therefore...

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