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Michaels v. Lynch

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 25, 2017

Barry Michaels, Plaintiff
v.
Loretta Lynch, et al., Defendants

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS, DENYING COUNTERMOTION TO AMEND, AND CLOSING CASE [ECF NOS. 19, 36]

          Jennifer A. Dorsey United States District Judge

         Barry Michaels, a non-violent felon who has completed his sentence, brings this as-applied challenge to the federal law that makes it a crime for a felon to possess any firearm or ammunition that has been transported in interstate or foreign commerce. He sues the United States Attorney General and the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives in their official capacities, and he seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Defendants move to dismiss, and Michaels countermoves for leave to amend his complaint. Because Michaels's claims fail as a matter of well-established Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit law and the proposed amendments would be futile, I grant defendants' dismissal motion, deny Michaels's countermotion for leave to amend, and close this case.

         Background

         Michaels alleges that he is a convicted non-violent felon who completed his sentence more than five years ago and has stayed out of trouble.[1] He desires to purchase a firearm for lawful purposes but refrains from doing so “only because he reasonably fears criminal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) as enforced by the defendants, and is accordingly deprived of his Second Amendment right” to bear arms.[2] He also identifies proposed class members as:

Natural persons and citizens of the United States of America, who are convicted non-violent felons who completed their sentence(s) more than five years ago, have not committed any crimines within such time,
are not fugitives from justice, have not been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions, are not unlawful users of or addicted to any controlled substances, have not been adjudicated as mental defective or committed to a mental institution, are not on parole or probation, are not under indictment or restraint, desire to purchase a firearm for lawful purposes, but refrain from doing so only because they reasonably fear criminal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).[3]

         Michaels asserts two claims for declaratory judgment, seeking a declaration by this court that the implicit purpose of § 922(g)(1) was to prevent violent crimes[4] and that the class enjoys “the same presumption of being (a) law-abiding citizen(s) as any non-convicted person(s) [ ] and are entitled to enjoy the same fundamental Second Amendment right(s).”[5] He asserts two due-process claims, a claim that § 922(g)(1) operates as an unlawful bill of attainder, and a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment-all of which invoke the Second Amendment.

         Defendants move to dismiss, arguing that Michaels lacks Article III standing because Nevada state law also prohibits felons from possessing firearms, so Michaels cannot demonstrate that a favorable ruling is likely to redress his alleged injury. Defendants also argue that this court lacks jurisdiction over Michaels's declaratory-judgment claims because Michaels has not identified an applicable waiver of sovereign immunity by which the United States has consented to suit. Even if Michaels could overcome these jurisdictional bars, defendants continue, this case should be dismissed under FRCP 12(b)(6) because the Ninth Circuit has already rejected constitutional challenges to § 922(g)(1) .

         Michaels opposes defendants' dismissal motion. He also countermoves to amend his complaint to name the Nevada Attorney General as a defendant and to identify 5 U.S.C. §§ 702 and 703 as a valid waiver of immunity, which he claims will render moot defendants' jurisdictional arguments. Michaels's proposed amended complaint omits the two stand-alone declaratory-judgment claims, which he acknowledges are better construed as prayers for relief than independent causes of action. His proposed amended complaint also drops his Fifth Amendment due-process claims, recognizing that these claims are best combined as a single Second Amendment claim. The net result is that Michaels's proposed amended complaint asserts three claims: (1) violation of his Second Amendment right to bear arms, (2) violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and (3) unlawful bill of attainder, and it adds the Nevada Attorney General as a defendant.

         Discussion

         A. Standards for leave to amend

         Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure directs that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires, ” but leave to amend may be denied if the proposed amendment is futile.[6] In determining whether to grant leave to amend, district courts consider five factors: (1) bad faith, (2) undue delay, (3) prejudice to the opposing party, (4) futility of amendment, and (5) whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint.[7] “Futility alone can justify the denial of a motion to amend.”[8]

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires every complaint to contain “[a] short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”[9] While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, the properly pled claim must contain enough facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[10] This “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”; the facts alleged must raise the claim “above the speculative level.”[11] In other words, a complaint must make direct or inferential allegations about “all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.”[12] A claim is facially plausible when the complaint alleges facts that allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct.[13] A complaint that does not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct has “alleged-but not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” and it must be dismissed.[14]

         B. Michaels's claims fail ...


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