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Hamm v. Wilson

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

December 19, 2014

RICKY HAMM, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC WILSON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss)

HENRY E. HUDSON, District Judge.

Ricky Hamm ("Hamm"), a federal inmate confined in the Federal Correctional Complex in Petersburg, Virginia ("FCC Petersburg"), filed suit[1] in the Circuit Court of Prince George County, Virginia ("Circuit Court") against Defendants[2] for breach of contract. Defendant Wilson[3] removed that case to this Court. This matter is before the Court on: (1) Defendant Wilson's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, (2) for Summary Judgment ("Motion to Dismiss, " ECF No. 2; "Motion for Summary Judgment, " ECF No. 3); (3) Hamm's Motion for Remand (ECF No. 6); and (4) Hamm's Motion to Amend, or in the Alternative, to Transfer to the Court of Federal Claims ("Motion to Amend, " ECF No. 8; "Motion to Transfer, " ECF No. 9). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Procedural History

Hamm, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed suit in the Circuit Court against "Federal Bureau of Prisons, Inc." and "Petersburg, Low."[4] (Compl. at 3.) The Complaint alleges that Defendants breached contracts "in the first instance and as a third-party beneficiary." ( Id. )

On August 29, 2014, Defendant Wilson filed a Notice of Removal of State Court Action to United States District Court. ("Notice of Removal, " ECF No. 1.) On September 5, 2014, Defendant Wilson filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 2) and Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 3).

On September 17, 2014, Hamm filed a "Notice for Remand to State Court" ("Motion to Remand, " ECF No. 6), which the Court construes as a Motion to Remand.[5] Defendant Wilson filed an Opposition to Motion to Remand (ECF No. 7).

On October 7, 2014, Hamm filed a Motion to Amend (ECF No. 8) and Motion to Transfer to the Court of Federal Claims (ECF No. 9). Defendant Wilson responded with an Opposition to the Motion to Amend and Motion to Transfer (ECF No. 10). On October 28, 2014, Hamm filed an untitled Memorandum of Law and Facts (ECF No. 11).

II. Summary of Allegations

Hamm's contends that a variety of conditions at the FCC Petersburg are unsuitable. The unsuitable conditions of the facility, Hamm avers, include violations of the fire code, "over capacity of the facilities and buildings, " "inmates being subjected to second hand smoke, " "officers stealing food from the kitchen, " and "violati[on] of the code regarding capacity of facilities buildings."[6] (Compl. at 6-7.) Hamm argues that 18 U.S.C. § 4002[7] and § 4042, [8] along with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's regulations for housing, 24 C.F.R. § 5.703, constitute "contracts" between the BOP and the United States, that he is a third party beneficiary to these "contracts, " and that his conditions of confinement constitute a breach of those contracts. ( Id. at 5-6.) Hamm seeks ad damnum in the form of $10, 000, 000 in real damages per defendant and $50, 000, 000 in punitive damages. ( Id. at 8.)

III. Lack of Jurisdiction

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 116 S.Ct. 1673, 1675 (1994). They possess only such power as is authorized by the Constitution or conferred by statute. Id Absent a finding of subject matter jurisdiction, this Court has no adjudicative authority to proceed further. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 1012, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998). As explained below, because the Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction over Hamm's claims, so too does this Court.

A. Sovereign Immunity and Waiver

"Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit. Sovereign immunity is jurisdictional in nature. Indeed, the terms of [the United States'] consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit." FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) (alteration in original) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (citing United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212 (1983); United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941)).

The statutes and regulation Hamm cites in his Complaint, 18 U.S.C. §§ 4002, [9] 4042[10] and 24 C.F.R. § 5.703[11] do not create a private right of action against the United States for breach of contract. See, e.g., Touche Ross & Co. v. Redington, 442 U.S. 560, 569 (1979) (refusing to find a statute created an implied private remedy when it ...


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