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Burks v. Wilson

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

December 19, 2014

STEPHEN BURKS, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC WILSON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss)

HENRY E. HUDSON, District Judge.

Stephen Burks ("Burks"), 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. The matter is before the Court on Defendant Wilson's (1) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for (2) Summary Judgment ("Motion to Dismiss, " ECF No. 2; "Motion for Summary Judgment, " ECF No. 3); (3) Burks's Motion for Remand (ECF No. 10); and (4) Burks's Motion to Amend (ECF No. 13).

I. Procedural History

On June 17, 2014, Burks, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed suit against Defendants in the Circuit Court. The Complaint alleges that Defendants breached contracts "implied in fact, implied in law, [and] expressed based on the relationship of the parties, in the first instance and as a third party beneficiary herein."[4] (Compl. at 1.)

On July 28, 2014, Defendant Wilson removed his state court action to this Court ("Notice of Removal, " ECF No. 1). Shortly thereafter, on July 31, 2014, Defendant Wilson filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 2) and Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 3). Burks filed a brief opposing the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 6), and a "Responsive Brief to Defendant's Brief Dated 8/20/14" ("Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, " ECF No. 9).

On September 16, 2014, Burks sought to have the case remanded to the Circuit Court of Prince George County by filing a "Notice for Remand to State Court" (ECF No. 10), which the Court construes as a Motion to Remand.[5] Defendant Wilson filed a brief in opposition (ECF No. 11), and Burks filed an "Opposition to Defendant's Filing Dated 9/18/14" (ECF No. 12).

On September 26, 2014, Burks filed a Motion to Amend (ECF No. 13). Defendant Wilson filed a brief opposing the Motion to Amend (ECF No. 14), and Burks filed a reply (ECF No. 15).

II. Summary of Allegations

Burks alleges that a variety of conditions at the FCC Petersburg are unsuitable. The unsuitable conditions of the facility, Burks avers, include violations of fire and plumbing codes, "over capacity of the facilities and buildings, " and officers "smoking out of designated areas, " in violation of their contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). (Compl. at 6-7.) Burks contends that these conditions breach three types of contract.

First, Burks asserts that 18 U.S.C. § 4002[6] and § 4042[7] constitute a contract between the BOP and the United States, that he is a third party beneficiary to these "contracts, " and his conditions of confinement constitute a breach of these contracts. (Compl. 4.) Second, Burks essentially claims that prison conditions constitute a breach of his plea agreement with the Government. ( Id. at 5.) Lastly, Burks charges that the Defendants breached "contracts between BOP-Low and the State of Virginia, BOP-Low and Prince George County, BOP-Low and City of Hopewell..., contracts between the Plaintiff and Virginia, the Plaintiff and Hopewell, the contracts between Prince George County, etc...." ( Id. at 6.) To the extent, however dubious, these alleged contracts actually exist, Burks nonetheless fails to describe the content of these contracts, include any contractual terms, or describe how Defendants breached them.[8] Burks seeks ad damnum in the form of $10, 000, 000 in real damages per defendant and $50, 000, 000 in punitive damages. ( Id. at 11.)

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 Burks'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 ...


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