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Rodriguez v. Hemit

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

July 30, 2018

JERARDO RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SOHI HEMIT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court upon Motions to Dismiss by Defendants Sohi Hemit, Soon Kim, U.S. Post Office, Inspector General's Office, and Consumer Affairs (Dkt. # 58) and Defendant Vincent Sablan and Alan Hancock (Dkt. # 66). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. Plaintiff's “Motion to Expedite re Motions to Dismiss” (Dkt. # 75) is hereby DENIED AS MOOT.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises from Plaintiff's encounters with his mail carrier. Plaintiff claims that he complained to the U.S. Post Office in July 2015 about the bad attitude of “Sohi Hemit, ” Plaintiff's mail carrier. Dkt. # 1-1 (Complaint) at 1.[1] Plaintiff avers that Hemit began throwing trash in Plaintiff's mailbox in retaliation for this complaint. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he appealed to Soon Kim, the Post Master General, as well as to Kim's superiors, who responded but refused to come to Plaintiff's apartment to examine the “trash” that was placed in Mr. Rodriguez's mailbox. Id. at 2. Plaintiff claims that he experienced further retaliation for his insistence on an investigation into the initial complaint. Id. For example, Plaintiff states that Hemit tampered with his mail on one occasion and, on another occasion, stole $60.00 by slicing open three letters meant for Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff claims that the harassment has not stopped. Id.

         On May 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit against Hemit, Kim, and a slew of unknown defendants. Dkt. # 1. Plaintiff alleged that these actions or failures to act constituted violations under the Constitution and various criminal codes. Dkt. # 5. Plaintiff requested that this Court order the Postal Service to change certain procedures regarding complaints, including requiring investigators to “no longer minimize complaints” and to go “to grievants' places of residents, ” and to order that criminal charges be brought against “all Defendants.” Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff also demanded $70, 000 in nominal and punitive damages from each Defendant, costs and attorney's fees. Id.

         Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on December 14, 2017. Dkt. # 41. The allegations are largely the same as the first complaint, but Plaintiff named five additional defendants: Vincent Sablan, Alan Hancock, the U.S. Post Office, the Inspector General's Office, and Consumer Affairs. Id. at 1. Plaintiff alleged that he complained to both Mr. Sablan and Mr. Hancock about his mail service, but both “denied” his appeals and refused to come to his apartment. Id. at 2. Mr. Rodriguez also alleged that he spoke of his complaints with other employees at the “Inspector General and [] Consumer Affairs, ” although it is unclear what action Plaintiff alleges they took. Id. at 3.

         On February 16, 2018, Sohi Hemit, Soon Kim, U.S. Post Office, Inspector General's Office, and Consumer Affairs moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(1) & 12(b)(6). Dkt. # 58. In response, Plaintiff filed a “Rejoinder, ” and Defendants filed a Reply. Dkt. ## 59, 62.[2] On April 3, 2018, Defendants Vincent Sablan and Alan Hancock filed their own Motion to Dismiss on the same grounds as the other Defendants. Dkt. # 66. Plaintiff filed a “Rejoinder” in response, and Defendants filed a Reply. Dkt. ## 69, 71.[3]

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Defendants have all moved to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); 12(b)(6). Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir.1989). In evaluating a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the plaintiff and take its factual allegations as true. See, e.g., Oscar v. Univ. Students Co-Operative Ass'n, 965 F.2d 783, 785 (9th Cir.1992). The Supreme Court has explained that “when allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007) (internal citation and quotation omitted).

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must construe his pleading liberally, and the pleading, “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) (citation omitted). Nonetheless, pro se litigants are still “bound by the rules of procedure.” Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995).

         A. The Court Lacks Jurisdiction Over Plaintiff's Service-Based Claims

         In enacting the Postal Accountability and Enforcement Act of 2006 (“PAEA”), Congress gave jurisdiction to the Postal Regulatory Commission (“PRC”) to hear complaints regarding postal rates and services. The PAEA provides a detailed procedure by which an interested party may lodge a complaint with the PRC. 39 U.S.C. § 3662. After those procedures have been followed, the party may file a petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 39 U.S.C. § 3663. The PAEA provides that district courts have jurisdiction to enforce, and to enjoin and restrain the U.S. Postal Service from violating, any order issued by the PRC. 39 U.S.C. § 3664. Read together, these provisions demonstrate that this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider service-related complaints in the first instance. McDermott v. Potter, No. C09-0776RSL, 2009 WL 2971585, at *3 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 11, 2009), aff'd sub nom. McDermott v. Donahue, 408 Fed.Appx. 51 (9th Cir. 2011); see also LeMay v. United States Postal Serv., 450 F.3d 797, 801 (8th Cir. 2006) (finding that the PRC has exclusive jurisdiction over complaints about unsatisfactory service).

         Plaintiff's claims are based on his allegations that Defendants improperly delivered his mail by placing “trash” in his mailbox, took money out of his mail, and failed to investigate his complaints. Dkt. ## 5, 41. These are service-related complaints, therefore this Court does not have jurisdiction over them. Assuming his allegations are valid, Plaintiff must pursue his complaint directly with the Postal Service through the Postal Regulatory Commission. 39 U.S.C. § 3662(a). If he was dissatisfied with the resolution provided by the PRC, he could have sought relief from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia within thirty days of a final decision from the PRC. 39 U.S.C. § 3663. Plaintiff, pursuant to Section 3662(a), was required to file his claim with the PRC, not this Court. By all accounts, Plaintiff failed to pursue this remedy before bringing an action before this Court.

         Accordingly, Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies by pursuing a complaint with the PRC. For this reason alone, this Court lacks subject matter ...


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