Simmons v. United States

Decision Date30 November 2022
Docket Number21-2271
CourtU.S. Claims Court



Edward H. Meyers, Judge

Melvin Joseph Simmons brings this action raising less than clear allegations of fraud, misappropriation, breach of contract and taking of his property against the United States and various officials. None of these allegations, however, come within this Court's jurisdiction. The tort claims are clearly beyond this Court's jurisdiction, as are the frivolous contract and takings claims. Because this Court lacks jurisdiction over Simmons's complaint, it grants the Government's motion to dismiss.

I. Standard of Review

"Subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold issue that must be determined at the outset of a case." King v. United States, 81 Fed.Cl. 766, 768 (2008) (citing Steel Co v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998)). This Court's primary source of jurisdiction is the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491. Under the Tucker Act, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over claims brought against the United States that are "founded either upon the Constitution, or any act of Congress or any regulation of an executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in cases not sounding in tort." 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1). But "[t]he Tucker Act itself does not create a substantive cause of action." Fisher v. United States, 402 F.3d 1167, 1172 (Fed. Cir. 2005). To establish jurisdiction, Plaintiff "must identify a separate source of substantive law that creates the right to money damages." Id. (citations omitted). If there is no money-mandating source of law that supports Plaintiff's claims, "the Court of Federal Claims lacks jurisdiction" and the case must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Jan's Helicopter Serv., Inc. v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 525 F.3d 1299, 1308 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (quoting Greenlee Cnty., Ariz. v. United States, 487 F.3d 871, 876 (Fed. Cir. 2007)).

When deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the Court "must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in [the Plaintiff's] favor." Boyle v. United States, 200 F.3d 1369, 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2000). And it is well-established that the plaintiff "bears the burden of establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence." Howard v. United States, 74 Fed.Cl. 676, 678 (2006), aff'd, 230 Fed.Appx. 975 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citation omitted). Complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs "must be held to 'less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (citation omitted). However, "the leniency afforded pro se litigants with respect to mere formalities does not relieve them of jurisdictional requirements." Demes v. United States, 52 Fed.Cl. 365, 368 (2002) (citing Kelley v. Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of Lab., 812 F.2d 1378, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 1987)).

II. Discussion

Simmons's complaint is difficult to decipher and relatively brief. Due to this lack of clarity, the Court also relies on Simmons's response to the motion to dismiss because it adds some clarity and detail regarding what Simmons is seeking in this litigation. Even with the support of his response, Simmons's complaint fails to raise claims within the jurisdiction of this Court. He seeks to recover for alleged frauds and misappropriation by the Government, an apparent challenge to his criminal conviction, a maritime claim, and claims against various government officials that are all outside this Court's jurisdiction. Simmons also attempts to bring what he claims are breach of contract and Fifth Amendment takings claims, but these too are frivolous.

First, Simmons alleges that there is a "Conspiracy to Defraud" him of certain property. ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 8. Although it is not clear what this property was, the fraud allegation does factor prominently in Simmons's response to the motion to dismiss. In fact, Simmons includes as one of the issues before the Court whether this Court has jurisdiction to determine whether the government, acting through specific individuals "fraudulently Assigned Plaintiff's rights, benefits, issues, obligations, persons, money, goods, chattels, lands, tenements, and hereditaments ...." ECF No. 12 at 2. Simmons also alleges that:

"Plaintiff's rightful inheritance [was] misappropriated by actual fraud . . ." ECF No. 12 at 2;
He was unaware that "Void Instrument ABSTRACT OF JUDGMENTCOMMITMENT DSL 290 CASE NUMBER A917709 Could be used to fraudulently convey plaintiff's rights, ownership and SOCIAL SECURITY FEDERAL OLD AGE, SURVIVORS' AND DISABILITY INSURANCE INVESTMENT BENEFITS." ECF No. 12 at 3;
• His harms are "a result of actual fraud which is a question of fact according to state law ...." Id.;
He is "the party alleging actual fraud ...." Id. at 9; • The United States "transmitted Plaintiff Melvin Joseph Simmons Federal Old-Age Survivors' And Disability Insurance Policy Investment Benefits to Plaintiff Melvin Simmons Jr. Legal Personality MELVIN SIMMONS JR, Without consent, or to the artificial Person SIMMONS MELVIN JR. A917709 through actual fraudulent means with the unauthorized use of the Void Instrument ABSTRACT OF JUDGMENT - COMMITMENT DSL FORM 290 CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR BANKRUPTCY COURT I.D. 19 00 10." Id. at 11;
• His "claims are based on transitional facts sounding in fraud where the accrual rule (The doctrine delaying the existence of a claim or right until the plaintiff has discovered it) Is being applied with due diligence of newly discovered facts as to; the void instrument Abstract of Judgment-Commitment Form DSL 290 Case NO.A917709,(See,Cal.Civ.Code,§§§ 53. (a)(b)(c),1598,3412)to form the basis for this cause of action." Id. at 16; and
• The Government "Caused . . . the permanently [sic] Taking of JOSEPH from its station and replacing it with the Jr, earmark in anticipation of litigation, intended to defraud plaintiffs of trade-secret [Jr.Curtilage Eclosure Form No. 56.Round Lot], Collateral, personal property, stock, bonds, along with rights of Survivorship." Id. at 21.

According to the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1), this Court's jurisdiction is limited to claims against the United States for monetary damages "not sounding in tort." In short, this Court must dismiss tort claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, including complaints alleging fraud. E.g., Kant v. United States, 123 Fed.Cl. 614, 616-17 (2015) (collecting cases); Cottrell v. United States, 42 Fed.Cl. 144, 149 (1998) ("It is well-settled that the Court of Federal Claims lacks jurisdiction over any and every kind of tort claim."). Therefore, the Court dismisses the Complaint insofar as it seeks damages for any alleged fraud.

The same is true of Simmons's allegations that the Government has violated his right to privacy and misappropriated his name. ECF No. 12 at 15 (allegations regarding the "[c]ommon-law right of privacy"), 16 (complaining about the alleged use of his "name, likeness, in the manner of slander, on or in products, merchandise, goods, or for the purpose of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases or services, without prior consent"). These claims are torts that this Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate. In re Elster, 26 F.4th 1328, 1334 (Fed. Cir. 2022) (explaining that the "Restatement (Second) of Torts defines the tort of 'Appropriation of Name or Likeness,' as actionable when a tortfeasor 'appropriates to his own use or benefit the name or likeness of another'" (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652C (1977))); Jumah v. United States, 90 Fed.Cl. 603, 607 (2009) (claims for invasion of privacy are "claims sounding in tort"), aff'd, 385 Fed.Appx. 987 (Fed. Cir. 2010); McCullough v. United States, 76 Fed.Cl. 1, 4 (2006) ("Plaintiff's claims for . . . invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts [and] intrusion upon seclusion, . . . are tort claims."). These claims must be dismissed as well.

Second, although Simmons states that he is not challenging his criminal conviction, he alleges in the complaint that he is being forced to "involuntarily serv[e] as the deceased personality's name CDC No. D66671 Simmons Melvin Jr. PID # 11482307." ECF No. 1 at 3 ¶ 14. The Court can only read this as another challenge to Simmons's conviction by California courts. As an initial matter, this Court lacks jurisdiction over criminal matters. E.g., Sanders v. United States, 252 F.3d 1329, 1333-34 (Fed. Cir. 2001). And, as explained in Simmons's prior litigation, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear a challenge to a state court decision. Simmons v. United States, No. 21-921, 2021 WL 2655344, at *2 (Fed. Cl. June 28, 2021). To the extent Simmons's claims allege involuntary servitude under the Thirteenth Amendment, this Court lacks jurisdiction over such claims as well. E.g., Humphrey v. United States, 60 Fed.Appx. 292, 295 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (affirming dismissal of claim under the Thirteenth Amendment for lack of jurisdiction).

Third while Simmons contends that he is a "U.S. Flag Commercial Vessel," ECF No. 12 at 19, this contention is frivolous and, in any event, does not confer jurisdiction. As the Court explained in Johnson v. United States, 79 Fed.Cl. 769 (2007), the Court of Federal Claims lacks maritime jurisdiction. And even if this Court did have maritime jurisdiction, Simmons is clearly not a "vessel," which "includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water." 1 U.S.C. § 3. And this definition "has remained virtually unchanged from 1873 to the...

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