United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
B. Leighton United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on the Defendant Coast Guard's
Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. #17] and on Plaintiff Edenstrom's
Motion for a Speedy Determination of This Case [Dkt. # 21].
This case involves the revocation of Edenstrom's Merchant
Mariner Certificate (MMC). During his 2104 MMC renewal
process, Edenstrom answered "no" to a series of
questions about medical conditions, including
(apparently) drug use. For reasons that are not
clear, the Coast Guard subpoenaed a medical
clinic and ascertained that Edenstrom's answers were not
correct; he was being treated for several conditions on the
list. It then commenced an administrative proceeding against
him to "suspend and revoke" (S&R) his license
for misrepresenting his medical status, and for refusing a
upheld the S&R of Edenstrom's MMC. Before he did,
however, Edenstrom filed this lawsuit, the purpose of which
is apparently to challenge the Coast Guard's authority to
subpoena his medical records when there has not been a
"marine casualty." He apparently also appealed the
Motion is difficult to follow, but the gist of it is that the
Coast Guard abused its subpoena power in obtaining his medical
records in the first place: The coast guard has no problem
accepting that they have authority granted to them to issue
subpoenas. There is no need to explain this grant of power as
it is well used, with great excitement, confidence and in the
most expedient way imaginable. The question at this time, is
whether that grant of power is absolute, or if 46 USC 7705(b)
places any restrictions on that subpoena authority, what
those restrictions are and whether or not the coast guard has
to act in regard to those restrictions with prudence.
case has only a question of law and not of fact, and that is
whether or not The United States Coast Guard has the
authority to disreguard the jurisdictional limits laid out in
46 USC 7705(b). If this Court decides not to answer the
question of law, which will force the parties into
litigation, then plaintiff reserves his right to respond to
the Coast Guard's Motion to Dismiss.
Coast Guard correctly treats Edenstrom's Motion as one
for Summary Judgment on his claim for a declaratory judgment
on his claim that the subpoena was illegal. It argues,
persuasively, that its subpoena power is not limited to
marine casualty situations (see 46 U.S.C. §
7705(b)) and that Edenstrom has not met his summary judgment
burden of demonstrating that he is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.
Coast Guard is correct that Edenstrom's "motion for
speedy determination" is effectively a motion for
summary judgment on his declaratory judgment claim, and that
Edenstrom has not established that he is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. He is legally incorrect about the scope
of the Coast Guard's subpoena power under 46 U.S.C.
§ 7705(b). His Motion [Dkt. # 21] is therefore
Coast Guard's Motion seeks dismissal of Edenstrom's
complaint. It argues that Edenstrom has failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies, depriving this court of subject
matter jurisdiction over his declaratory judgment claim. It
also argues that Edenstrom's claims are not viable under
the familiar Iqbal standard because he does not
plausibly allege facts supporting any claim; he instead
couches legal conclusions as fact.
under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on either the lack of a
cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts
alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v.
Pacifica Police Dep 't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.
1990). A plaintiffs complaint must allege facts to state a
claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See
Aschcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). A claim
has "facial plausibility" when the party seeking
relief "pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although the
Court must accept as true the Complaint's well-pled
facts, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted
inferences will not defeat a Rule 12(c) motion. Vazquez
v. L. A. County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007);
Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988
(9th Cir. 2001). "[A] plaintiffs obligation to provide
the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief
requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.
Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and
footnotes omitted). This requires a plaintiff to plead
"more than an unadorned,
Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly).
A pro se Plaintiffs complaint is to be construed
liberally, but like any other complaint it must nevertheless
contain factual assertions sufficient to support a facially
plausible claim for relief. Id.
12(b)(6) motion, "a district court should grant leave to
amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made,
unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be
cured by the allegation of other facts." Cook,
Perkiss & Liehe v. N. Cal. Collection Serv., 911
F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990). However, where the facts are
not in dispute, and the sole issue is whether there is
liability as a matter of substantive law, the court may deny
leave to amend. Albrecht v. Lund, 845 F.2d 193,
195-96 (9th Cir. 1988).
if the flaw in Edenstrom's complaint is that he did not
plead enough facts to state a plausible claim, the corrective
is to permit him to amend that complaint, not to dismiss it.
Coast Guard's more persuasive argument is that because
Edenstrom has not exhausted his administrative appeals in the
wake of the ALJ's S&R decision regarding his MMC
[Dkt. # 18-1] this Court does not have jurisdiction over his
If Plaintiff decides to seek further review within the
statutorily authorized time period, the appeal must be made
first to the Commandant of the Coast Guard, then to the
National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") and
then to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or the District of
Columbia Circuit. See generally, 3 C.F.R.
§20.1001, 49 U.S.C. §§ 1133 and 1153. Because
Plaintiffs appeals process is incomplete, the ...