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Morkal v. Hawks

United States District Court, D. Alaska

October 19, 2015

JOHN VICTOR MORKAL, Plaintiff,
v.
TERRY HAWKS d/b/a FAR NORTH MANAGEMENT SERVICES and at least two unknown employees of the SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Defendants,

ORDER REGARDING FEDERAL DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS

RALPH R. BEISTLINE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff John Victor Morkal has filed suit against Defendant Terry Hawks and at least two unidentified employees of the United States Social Security Agency ("Federal Defendants") alleging Defendants participated in a scheme by which Plaintiff was defrauded of federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments and Alaska Adult Public Assistance (ADA) funds. The United States government, on behalf of Federal Defendants, has filed a motion to dismiss at Docket 62. Plaintiff has filed no response.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a recipient of both the Social Security Administration's SSI benefits and the State of Alaska's APA benefits. These benefits were based on the Social Security Administration's determination that Plaintiff was sufficiently disabled and were provided to ensure Plaintiff's basic needs were met.[1] Although Plaintiff qualified for these benefits, he was deemed incapable of managing the benefits on his own and a licensed representative payee was required.[2] The Federal Defendants allegedly provided Plaintiff with a list of pre-approved representative payees in or around February 2011.[3] Defendants Hawks, the proprietor of Far North Management Services, was included in this list of pre-approved representative payees.

Plaintiff first selected Hawks as his representative in or about February 2011 and she represented him until May 2012.[4] Plaintiff’s claims stem from a dispute with Hawks over her handling of his benefits and failure to provide him the corresponding funds upon his request.[5] This dispute has led to Plaintiff's present suit. Plaintiff asserts that the Social Security Administration's Anchorage office is an enterprise for purposes of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968, and that Defendant Hawks and Federal Defendants were employed or associated with this enterprise to engage in racketeering activities to defraud and extort Plaintiff.[6] Plaintiff also claims that the actions of Hawks and Federal Defendants constitute a tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.[7] Defendant Hawks filed an answer at Docket at 53, while Federal Defendants have responded with a motion to dismiss at Docket 62.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.... It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.”[8] When there is a challenge to the district court's subject matter jurisdiction, “no presumptive truthfulness attaches to a plaintiff's allegations.”[9] “Once challenged, the party asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving its existence.”[10]

Jurisdictional challenges must be addressed before the Court considers the merits of a case.[11] Moreover, as jurisdiction is a threshold issue, “when a federal court ... lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the complaint, ” either upon a Rule 12(b)1) motion from the defendant or sua sponte.[12]

B. Sovereign Immunity

The United States, as a sovereign, is immune from suit unless it waives such immunity.[13]A motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity is essentially a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[14] In the context of a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss on the basis of sovereign immunity, the party asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving that immunity does not bar the suit.[15]

For suits against government officials like the present case, “the crucial question...is whether plaintiff[] sued these defendants...in their official capacities or in their individual capacities.”[16] A government official sued in his official capacity is entitled to “forms of sovereign immunity that the entity, qua entity, may possess” whereas an ...


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