United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
J. DAVIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Angel Luis Rodriguez, a federal inmate, is proceeding pro se
on a Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 1; Compl.) against the
United States of America under the Federal Tort Claims Act
(FTCA). Plaintiff alleges corrections officers at the United
States Penitentiary, Coleman 1, negligently failed to secure
his personal property, resulting in its loss or theft. See
Compl. at 4-5. As relief, Plaintiff seeks reimbursement of
the cost of his missing property and court costs.
Id. at 8.
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (Doc. 13; Motion). Plaintiff has
responded (Doc. 19; Response) and provides a declaration
(Doc. 20). As such, the motion is ripe for this Court's
Motion to Dismiss Standard
12(b)(1) permits a party to move for dismissal of an action
when the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). When a defendant challenges the
court's subject matter jurisdiction by reference to the
allegations in the complaint (a “facial attack”),
the court must construe the complaint allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lawrence v.
Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). However,
when the defendant challenges the court's power to hear
the case (a “factual attack”), the court may
consider facts outside the pleadings and weigh the evidence.
Id. Because federal courts have limited
jurisdiction, they are to presume they lack subject matter
jurisdiction, and the burden to overcome that presumption
lies with the party asserting jurisdiction exists.
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994).
alleges he lost sixteen years' worth of personal property
due to the negligence of officers at Coleman 1. Compl. at 3.
On December 12, 2016, unknown officers moved Plaintiff to a
holding cell for placement in the special housing unit
because Plaintiff's life was in danger in the general
population. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff asserts that
before leaving his cell, he secured his locker with the lock
he purchased from the commissary. Id. Officers did
not permit Plaintiff to return to his cell to pack his
belongings. Id. at 4. Instead, Plaintiff was
informed the unit officer would ensure his property was
properly inventoried and packed. Id. at 5. After
Plaintiff's relocation, he did not receive his personal
property back. Plaintiff alleges other inmates broke into his
locker and stole what was inside. Id. He also claims
the prison officials did not inventory his property or
provide him with a property form, contrary to prison policy.
Analysis & Conclusions
FTCA provides a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for
actions against the United States arising out of the tortious
acts of federal employees. See 28 U.S.C. §§
1346(b)(1), 2674. The FTCA, however, carves out exceptions to
the limited waiver of sovereign immunity. One exception is
for claims “arising in respect of the assessment or
collection of any tax or customs duty, or the detention of
any goods, merchandise, or other property by any officer of
customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer
….” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c).
argues the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because
Plaintiff's claim, which arises from the detention of
goods or property by law enforcement officers of the Bureau
of Prisons (BOP), falls within the exception under §
2680(c). See Motion at 3, 4. Plaintiff contends the exception
is inapplicable, stating the Supreme Court has not determined
whether the phrase “other law enforcement
officer” extends to officers of the BOP. Response at 3.
to Plaintiff's assertion, the United States Supreme Court
has addressed whether the phrase “any other law
enforcement officer” refers only to those enforcing
customs and excise laws or broadly includes any officer,
including BOP officers. Ali v. Fed. Bureau of
Prisons, 552 U.S. 214, 216, 218 (2008). In Ali, a
federal prisoner sought reimbursement for the cost of his
personal property he alleged BOP officials lost or misplaced
when he was transferred to another institution. Id.
at 216. The Court held § 2680(c) “forecloses
lawsuits against the United States for the unlawful detention
of property by ‘any,' not just ‘some,'
law enforcement officers” and noted, “nothing in
the overall statutory context suggests that customs and
excise officers were the exclusive focus of the
provision.” Id. at 226, 228.
contention that Plaintiff's factual allegations
“are materially indistinguishable from those in
Ali” is well taken. See Motion at 4. As the prisoner
alleged in Ali, Plaintiff alleges he entrusted BOP officers
to “secure, pack[, ] and inventory [his] personal
property” while he was being relocated, but his
property was lost or stolen. Compl. at 5; Ali, 552 U.S. at
216. Because the United States has not waived its sovereign
immunity as to claims arising from the detention of property
by law enforcement officers of the BOP, Plaintiff's claim