Perryman v. Health & Human Services
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - Plaintiff's Complaint 1 is dismissed without prejudice. A separate judgment will be entered in accordance with this Memorandum and Order. Ordered by Chief Judge Joseph F. Bataillon. (Copy mailed/e-mailed to pro se party)(KBJ)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA
OLLIE H. PERRYMAN,
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES,
Plaintiff filed his Complaint on May 19, 2011. (Filing No. 1.) Plaintiff has
previously been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 5.) The court
now conducts an initial review of the Complaint to determine whether summary
dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).
I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT
Plaintiff filed his Complaint on May 19, 2011, against “Health and Human
Services.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 1.) Condensed and summarized, Plaintiff
alleges that he was denied a passport because he is in arrears on his child support
payments. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 2-5.) Plaintiff challenges “the passport law that
pertains to child support” and asks the court to “suspend” his $14,000 child support
debt for five days so he can attend the “summit against violent extremism” in Dublin,
Ireland. (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 4-5.)
II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW
The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine
whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must
dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim,
that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
A pro se plaintiff must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge their
claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,” or “their complaint must be
dismissed” for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct.
1937, 1950 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.”). Regardless of whether a plaintiff is represented
or is appearing pro se, the plaintiff’s complaint must allege specific facts sufficient
to state a claim. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).
However, a pro se plaintiff’s allegations must be construed liberally. Burke v. North
Dakota Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., 294 F.3d 1043, 1043-44 (8th Cir. 2002) (citations
III. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS
Right to Travel Abroad
Although the right to travel abroad is a protected liberty, it can be regulated
within the bounds of due process. See Califano v. Torres, 435 U.S. 1, 5 n.6 (1978).
Indeed, the freedom to travel abroad is less important than the freedom to travel
interstate, which is virtually unqualified. Califano v. Aznavorian, 439 U.S. 170,
176–77 (1978). “Given the lesser importance of [the] freedom to travel abroad, the
Government need only advance a rational, or at most an important, reason” for
restricting international travel. Freedom to Travel Campaign v. Newcomb, 82 F.3d
1431, 1439 (9th Cir. 1996).
Here, Plaintiff challenges “the passport law that pertains to child support”
because it is restricting his ability to travel to Dublin, Ireland. (Filing No. 1 at
CM/ECF p. 4.) Although he does not specifically cite the law he is challenging, the
court liberally construes Plaintiff’s allegations to assert a constitutional challenge to
42 U.S.C. § 654(31) and 42 U.S.C. § 652(k). Section 654(31) requires states that
receive federal assistance for child support collection to certify “to the Secretary . .
. determinations that individuals owe arrearages of child support in an amount
exceeding $2,500.” 42 U.S.C. § 654(31). Upon receipt of a certification, and
pursuant to section 652(k), the Secretary will “refuse to issue a passport to such an
individual, and may revoke, restrict, or limit a passport issued previously to such
individual.” 42 U.S.C. 652(k)(2).
The Second and Ninth circuits have previously considered and rejected
constitutional challenges to these passport denial laws. See Eunique v. Powell, 302
F.3d 971, 975-76 (9th Cir. 2002) (concluding that Congress and the State Department
can refuse to issue a passport to individuals who are in arrears on their child support
obligations); Weinstein v. Albright, 261 F.3d 127 (2d Cir. 2001) (holding that the
statutory and regulatory scheme for denying passport applications and revoking
existing passports for individuals in arrears on child support obligations comports
with due process and equal protection). The court agrees with the reasoning in these
cases. Ensuring that parents pay child support is an important interest. See Eunique,
302 F.3d at 975. The passport denial laws are substantially related to this interest
because they focus the mind of a parent, such as Plaintiff, who wishes to travel
abroad, “on a more important concern-the need to support one’s children first.” Id.
Because Plaintiff admits that he has $14,000 in child support debt and because
Congress and the State Department can refuse to issue passports to individuals with
more than $2,500 in child support arrears, Plaintiff’s challenge to the passport denial
laws lacks merit.
Plaintiff’s Request to Suspend his Child Support Obligation
Plaintiff also asks the court to suspend his child support arrearage so he may
obtain a passport. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 5.) However, the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine prohibits lower federal courts from exercising appellate review of state court
judgments. Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 416 (1923); D.C. Court of
Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983). In fact, federal district courts do not
have jurisdiction “over challenges to state-court decisions . . . even if those challenges
allege that the state court’s action was unconstitutional.” Feldman, 460 U.S. at 486;
see also Ballinger v. Culotta, 322 F.3d 546, 548-49 (8th Cir. 2003) (dismissing
claims under Rooker-Feldman doctrine where the relief requested in the complaint
would effectively reverse or undermine the state court decision or void its ruling and
noting that “[f]ederal district courts thus may not ‘exercis[e] jurisdiction over general
constitutional claims that are ‘inextricably intertwined’ with specific claims already
adjudicated in state court” (citation omitted)). Stated simply, a federal district court
does not possess authority in a civil rights case to review or alter final judgments of
a state court judicial proceeding. This court cannot provide Plaintiff with the relief
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that:
Plaintiff’s Complaint (filing no. 1) is dismissed without prejudice.
A separate judgment will be entered in accordance with this
Memorandum and Order.
DATED this 28th day of June, 2011.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Joseph F. Bataillon
Chief United States District Judge
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