Owens v. Wong et al

Filing 26

ORDER granting Defendants' 8 , 16 Motions to Dismiss. Defendant Wong's motion for sanctions, doc 8 is denied. Plaintiff's claims are dismissed without prejudice. Signed by Judge Lisa G. Wood on 1/19/2023. (ca)

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Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 1 of 9 In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia Brunswick Division LARAEL K. OWENS, Plaintiff, v. CV 222-082 LIBERTY WONG, in her official capacity, and CHARLES P. ROSE, JR., in his official capacity, Defendants. ORDER Before the Court are a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Charles Rose, Jr., dkt. no. 16, and a motion to dismiss and request for sanctions filed by Defendant Liberty Wong, dkt. no. 8. Plaintiff Larael Owens has responded in opposition to both motions, dkt. nos. 11, 19. BACKGROUND On October 29, 2020, Plaintiff filed a Divorce and Child Custody case in the Superior Court of Long County, Civil Action No. SUV2020000165, which was assigned to Defendant Judge Charles P. Rose, Jr. Plaintiff’s Dkt. No. 8-1. wife in the Defendant Liberty Wong represented divorce action. After a temporary hearing granting Plaintiff’s wife temporary physical custody of the parties’ minor daughter and ordering Plaintiff to pay child Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 2 of 9 support during the pendency of the proceedings, Plaintiff filed with the Superior Court of Long County an Affidavit alleging that he is not a “U.S. person” and is a “foreign sovereign,” ostensibly arguing temporary order. divorce and that he is not Dkt. No. 8-2. child custody case subject to that court’s Dissatisfied as to how the progressed, specifically a Guardian Ad Litem Report recommending that the mother continue in the role of primary caregiver, see dkt. no. 1-1 at 1-17, Plaintiff filed this case to enjoin the moving forward. See generally Dkt. No. 1. divorce action from The divorce action is still pending, and Judge Rose has yet to file any final orders regarding child support, child custody, or visitation. Dkt. No. 16-1 at 3. Here, Plaintiff asserts two claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983: “The Social Security on File with Georgia DOR and the Court is Fraudulent” (Count 1), dkt. no. 1 at 4, and “Violation of [Plaintiff’s] Parent Fundamental Rights” (Count 2), id. at 9. More specifically, Plaintiff claims that his federal rights will be violated if Defendants enforce Judge Rose’s temporary order requiring Plaintiff to pay child support because he is not subject to Social Security and forcing him to pay would be a misuse of the Internal Revenue Code. Id. at 4. Additionally, Plaintiff claims the temporary custody arrangement violates his constitutional rights. Id. at 9. 2 Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 3 of 9 Defendants move to dismiss this action for, inter alia, lack of subject ripeness. matter jurisdiction, specifically, lack of See Dkt. No. 16-1 at 2, 13-14. LEGAL AUTHORITY Under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may move to dismiss a claim because the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter. Such a motion may be made at any stage of the proceedings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). two Attacks on forms: (1) attacks. subject facial matter jurisdiction attacks, and (2) come in factual [ ] Facial attacks on a complaint “require the court merely to look and sufficiently alleged jurisdiction, and the see a if basis the of allegations plaintiff subject in has matter [plaintiff's] complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.” [ ] Factual attacks challenge “the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered.” [ ] This circuit has explained that in a factual attack, the presumption of truthfulness afforded a plaintiff under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) does 3 Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 4 of 9 not attach, and the court 175 F.3d is free to weigh the evidence[.] Scarfo v. Ginsberg, 957, 960 (11th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). Because Court's Defendants subject matter have made a jurisdiction, factual the attack Court may on the consider matters outside the pleadings in resolving this motion. DISCUSSION I. Ripeness “The determination of ripeness ‘goes to whether the district court ha[s] subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case.’” Digital Props., Inc. v. City of Plantation, 121 F.3d 586, 591 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Greenbriar, Ltd. v. City of Alabaster, 881 F.2d 1570, 1573 n.7 (11th Cir. 1989)). “‘The ripeness doctrine involves consideration of both jurisdictional and prudential concerns.’” Id. at 589 Sikes, 730 F.2d 644, 648 (11th Cir. 1984)). United federal States Constitution courts to cases limits and the (quoting Johnson v. “Article III of the jurisdiction controversies of of the sufficient concreteness to evidence a ripeness for review.” Id. (citing U.S. Prof'l Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; Hallandale Fire Fighters Local 2238 v. City of Hallandale, 922 F.2d 756, 759 (llth Cir. 1991)). “‘Even when the constitutional minimum has been met, however, prudential considerations may still counsel 4 Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 5 of 9 judicial restraint.’” Id. (quoting Action Alliance of Senior Citizens v. Heckler, 789 F.2d 931, 940 n.12 (D.C. Cir. 1986)) (citing Johnson, 730 F.2d at 648). “The ripeness doctrine protects federal courts from engaging in speculation or wasting their resources through the review of potential or abstract disputes.” Id. “‘The doctrine seeks to avoid entangling courts in the hazards of premature adjudication.’” Id. (quoting Felmeister v. Office of Attorney Ethics, 856 F.2d 529, 535 (3d Cir. 1988)) (citing Abbott Lab. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148 (1967)). “The ripeness inquiry requires a determination of (l) the fitness of the issues for judicial decision, and (2) the withholding court consideration.” hardship to the parties of Id. (citing Abbott, 387 U.S. at 149; Cheffer v. Reno, 55 F.3d 1517, 1524 (11th Cir. 1995)). “The fitness prong is typically concerned with questions of ‘finality, definiteness, and the extent to which resolution of the challenge depends sufficiently developed.’” upon facts that may not yet be Mulhall v. UNITE HERE Local 355, 618 F.3d 1279, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Harrell v. Fla. Bar, 608 F.3d 1241, 1258 (11th Cir. 2010)). “The hardship prong asks about the costs to the complaining party of delaying until conditions for deciding the controversy are ideal.” review Id. “Courts must resolve ‘whether there is sufficient injury to meet Article III's requirement of a case or controversy and, if 5 Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 6 of 9 so, whether the claim is sufficiently mature, and the issues sufficiently defined and concrete, decisionmaking by the court.’” to permit effective Digital Props. 121 F.3d at 589 (quoting Cheffer, 55 F.3d at 1524). After considering the circumstances surrounding the pending state court divorce action, the Court finds Plaintiff’s claims are not ripe for judicial review in this Court. Plaintiff is attempting to appeal a state court’s temporary order. Under the fitness prong of the ripeness inquiry, a temporary order does not signal finality or definiteness. Mulhall, 618 F.3d at 1291. The resolution of Plaintiff’s challenge to the temporary child support obligation depends upon develop. how and the the temporary remainder of visitation the divorce arrangement proceedings For the Court to analyze the merits of Plaintiff’s claims, it would have to speculate as to any final order imposed by the state court. Doing so would “entangle[ the] court[] in the hazards of premature adjudication.” Digital Props., 121 F.3d at 589. Further, under the hardship prong of the ripeness inquiry, the Court finds the cost to Plaintiff of delaying review of his claims until significant. the divorce proceedings are final are not The state court’s temporary order allows Plaintiff visitation with his minor child from Thursdays at 5 p.m. to Mondays at 8 a.m. every other week. 6 It also requires Plaintiff Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 7 of 9 to pay only three hundred dollars per month in child support. Such temporarily imposed conditions are commonplace in a divorce proceeding. Having found both the fitness and hardship prongs of the ripeness inquiry weigh in favor of this Court not deciding the merits of Plaintiff’s claims, the Court concludes Plaintiff’s claims are not ripe for judicial review, and this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to decide them. F.3d at 591. Accordingly, Digital Props., 121 Defendants’ motions to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint, dkt. nos. 8, 16, are GRANTED. II. Request for Sanctions In addition to moving for dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint, Defendant Wong moves the Court to impose sanctions against Plaintiff for filing this lawsuit. Wong argues that Plaintiff’s claims are based on a sovereign citizen theory, a theory which courts have rejected and recognized as frivolous and a waste of judicial resources. Dkt. No. 8 at 5. “Courts have the inherent power to police those appearing before them.” Purchasing Power, LLC v. Bluestem Brands, Inc., 851 F.3d 1218, 1223 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 46 (1991)). with restraint appropriate process.’” and sanction “This power ‘must be exercised discretion’ and for which conduct used ‘to an the judicial Id. (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 44–45). “A court 7 abuses fashion Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 8 of 9 may exercise this power ‘to sanction the willful disobedience of a court order, and to sanction a party who has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons.’” Id. (quoting Marx v. Gen. Revenue Corp., 568 U.S. 371, 382 (2013) (citing Chambers, 501 U.S. at 45–46)). “The dual purpose of this power is to vindicate judicial authority without resorting to a contempt of court sanction and to make the prevailing party whole.” Id. (citing Chambers, 501 U.S. at 46). “The key to unlocking a court's inherent power is a finding of bad faith.” Id. (citing Sciarretta v. Lincoln 1205, 1212 (11th Cir. 2015)). of proving bad faith. Nat’l Life Ins., 778 F.3d The moving party bears the burden See Wandner v. Am. Airlines, 79 F. Supp. 3d 1285, 1289 (S.D. Fla. 2015). Here, at this juncture, the Court finds insufficient evidence of bad faith on the part of Plaintiff in filing this lawsuit. Accordingly, Defendant Wong’s motion for sanctions, dkt. no. 8, is DENIED. CONCLUSION Because Plaintiff’s claims are not ripe for review, Defendants’ motions to dismiss, dkt. nos. 8, 16, are GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s claims DISMISSED are without prejudice. However, Defendant Wong’s motion for sanctions, dkt. no. 8, is DENIED. The Clerk is DIRECTED to close this case. 8 Case 2:22-cv-00082-LGW-BWC Document 26 Filed 01/19/23 Page 9 of 9 SO ORDERED, this 19th day of January, 2023. HON. LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 9

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